Category Archives: Tradition & Culture

The Talented Craftsmen

On a recent visit to Kenya, we had the good fortune of being able to visit one of the local handicrafts market, thanks to the efforts and planning of a very good friend. ” You would really like the place” is what she said; what she did not mention was the fact that we would be totally overwhelmed by the sheer talent that these people had!

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Seated all over the place under the shade of a few trees, we were treated to some of the most creative craft work that we had seen. There were brightly colored clothes, dazzling prints, work with beads of different colors – this included chains, necklaces, bangles, pendants, earrings, bracelets, headbands, keychains and many many more items, the list just went on and on.

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Next up was the lady with the metal work….so many items, so intricately planned and finished, and neatly displayed. From animals. to busts, to full sculptures, wall hangings, frames, necklaces..almost everything decorative that we could think of was available, and a fair share of it was made from simple pieces of metal and wire cleverly tied or interlinked with one another.

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At the Gourd stall, we just stood and stared. There really was’nt anything else to do. The extent of creativity and craftsmanship was quite evident from the items that were on display. There were gourds of different sizes and shapes, with different artwork and patterns on them, all featuring stories of the African plains and the life of the people in and around those areas.

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There was also some very solid wood furniture available, the sofas, chairs and tables being exclusively handcrafted, The designs were as creative as one could imagine. Probably the biggest issue one would have in the todays world would be to accommodate the furniture in the smaller modern houses.

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We could probably have spent the next two days at the same place, there was just so much to see. The people were friendly and took the time explaining to us the work and method involved in the production of their products. The next time we go here, we intend to find out more about how these items are actually made, and if possible get a hands on visit to the place where these talented artisans are.

 

 

Camel Race Day

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Its arrived!! At long last it is the season for racing. After having trained for close to a year, the camels get their chance to prove themselves.Those who have arrived early are relaxing, its warm, and they know that they will need all their energy for later on, once the racing starts. Others are arriving, all excited, and happy that the time has finally arrived.

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For some of the others, its just a normal day in the desert…..But wait, these are the ones on sale..once the races are over, many of the traders and owners of other camels will come here to inspect them and see if they will fit into, and benefit the herds that they already have.

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Back on the race-track, its not yet time for the races to start, and there are some that have come just to add a bit of flavor to the races. They do a leisurely lap on one of the tracks,  as if sampling what it would be like to race on it some day.

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OK, things are warming up now, suddenly the place has turned very active and businesslike. Announcements are made, and the herders start moving the camels towards the start pits. It is interesting to watch, because the animals are nervous, and anxious to get it over and done…slowly and reluctantly, they all make their ways through the gates and towards the start line.

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After a lot of coaxing and pushing, the camels are finally in their places and are waiting for the barrier to be raised in order to display their prowess and speed achieved over the past year.

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And then, without any warning the barrier is raised, and they are off……..

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It is a spectacle well worth watching. The dedication shown by the herders, the love between the owners and their animals, the entire festival with traditional tents, cultural dances and campfires, it is almost too good to be true. If you are ever in the Middle East during Camel Festival time (it generally happens between December and March), this is one event that you should witness.

 

 

Walking the Streets

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You just never know what you can come across while taking a walk on the streets, and I guess that is what makes street photography so interesting. The trick to being successful with street photography is to carry with you a camera that is not too obtrusive or conspicuous. People are generally more relaxed and at ease when they see you with a small camera..they do’nt mind your being there. Just remember to be respectful and polite.

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And quite often they are even happy to pose for you…..just talk to them, ask for their permission to take their picture, and you walk away as happy and satisfied as they are.

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Keep looking around for things of interest, and you will find them. Very often we pass people or things that we take for granted……spend a moment to observe, take the scene in, and make your picture.  These guys were having a hard day at work, and just continued doing what they were doing…

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And then at times we get a bit lucky, and are rewarded with things that are not too commonly seen on the street; – like this father taking his children for a ride on the elephant.

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At the Desert

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It is always an adventure going to the desert…..the very thought of being able to be there with the huge sand dunes, experience the strong wind blowing, listen to the sounds of nature, and have life slow down a bit ….the experience is soothing and rather priceless!!

Firstly you have absolutely no idea what you will encounter, there is always something happening there, you just have to be able to find it.

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The Camel herders are perhaps one of the more common sights that you will come across as you start venturing into the desert.  Being able to capture a picture of them just waking their herd of Camel, or against the backdrop of the large dunes is very satisfying, (although it would be a whole lot better of there were’nt so many tyre tracks on the dunes…that’s man announcing his presence there too).

SONY DSCSome others prefer to watch the sun go down with a birds eye view of the desert. It does make for some spectacular viewing, and must have been as challenging for them to make the trip up there (and down later on in the dark), as it would be satisfying for them to just sit there and watch the sun sink into the golden dunes.

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The light slowly slips away, another day has passed. Its time to bid farewell to these dunes, and get ready for the long drive back home.

 

An Architectural Jewel

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For an absolute treat in architecture and photography, make a trip down to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and spend the day visiting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. This is arguably one of the most beautiful, and exquisite, religious structures of recent times.

The best time to go would be between October and April as the weather would be good. You need to take this into consideration, because you can do as much photography inside the mosque as you could outside. Photographing this structure is a challenge, from the sheer magnitude, to the grandeur, and the crowds that come there to visit.

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The columns create a mesmerizing effect, and if you get a few people in the frame, it becomes all the more interesting. If you are really lucky, and you have some clouds in the sky, then the entire appearance of the courtyard changes, it helps to accentuate the tall minarets and the beautiful floral designs on the floor. Getting down as low as possible and using a wide angle lens further emphasizes this.

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The domes are beautiful. They keep having different effects on the viewer, depending on the time of day that you look at them. At night, the lighting on the domes is set to create the phases of the moon. You must stay till after dark to get an entirely different view of this mosque.

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Once inside the mosque, its like stepping into another world. It takes a few minutes for you to fully comprehend the grandeur and magnificence that the interior exhibits. There is so much to see, so much to take in…you can easily spend a whole day inside the mosque.

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Before you leave, and while there is still light, take some time to travel to spots around the mosque,and try and get the entire mosque in a single frame. It is a picture that you will always treasure as structures like this are rare jewels in the world of architecture.

IMG_8113For more information on the mosque, the visit timings and how to get there, please check this link http://www.szgmc.ae

We hope you do make the visit, and have a lovely time making your pictures. We have been there a few times, but still get amazed every time we visit.

 

 

A Soothing Sight

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Sometimes we get too stressed out with “what we need to photograph” or “I need to find the right subject”. When you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is to just ease off a bit, take a few steps back and try to relax. The worst thing that can happen is to let yourself get stressed, because then you find a lot of frustration creeping in, because nothing seems to be going the way you want it to!

Felt this way before with your photography? Don’t worry, it happens all the time; the important thing is to find ways to keep yourself occupied, and still be on the lookout for something to make a picture with.

One of the things that allows us to relax, (and help us remain focused on our photography), at times like this is taking a walk on the sea shores; – walk bare foot in the water while the waves lap around your feet, feel the sand, water…just connect with nature. It is a total relaxation therapy; and in most cases, you always come out refreshed, and ready to start all over again. On more occasions than one, we have found subjects to photograph during these walks on the beach.

The above picture is an example of what we are talking about……give it a try!

Beat of the Drums

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Festivals in India take on a different dimension. There are lots of preparations that take place prior to the event, people and the entire community as a whole sets aside time for their participation in the festivals. Added to that is the fact that the events that take place happen in the open public areas, so everyone has access to it. In some areas (like the one pictured above), there was not enough open place for the celebration to take place, so it happened on the main road.

Traffic was diverted, the road was cordoned off, and the drummers and elephant, marched through the street. The drummers seemed to have endless amounts of energy, the beats kept rolling out in great rhythm, they kept swaying to the beat, much to the excitement of the crowd surrounding them. All in all a very festive and happy mood for everyone.

The drummers as well as the organizers of the festival were very receptive to the fact that we were taking pictures, however, being able to get good pictures was a bit of a challenge. It was late evening, almost sunset time, light was low…the drummers kept walking forward, swaying to the beat, and drumming, the crowds surrounding them were anxious to get the best view, so not too receptive to the photo making, there were people constantly walking in front of the drummers, and the road was not wide enough to accommodate all the activity happening on it. With a lot of moving around, coaxing of the viewers, making many apologies, we were able to get some good pictures of the event. Lesson learnt, talk to people, explain what you are trying to do, show them the images you are making, and they will help and accommodate you.

A Time Gone By

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It was only after we took up photography as a hobby/passion, that we realized that there was so much about the United Arab Emirates that we knew nothing about.  We had read in some of the books on the UAE, that there were several tribes that had lived in the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah, but now that things had changed, most of them had migrated to the towns and cities around, and were leading normal modern day lives like all of us.

So after a lot of reading, studying maps, asking questions etc,  we decided to look for the Stone Houses that were somewhere in the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah. We spent most of the morning getting to the area, and then after lunch, we found the dirt track which would seemingly lead us to the Stone Houses. We followed it, and sure enough, there were the houses, or at least the remains of the houses ahead of us. Made with just stones, and in some places a modern looking window, these houses gave us a feeling of sadness…we could almost imagine the whole place as it might have been in its prime days, each house with its little compound (the boundry was a line of stones all around the house); a small community of people tucked away in the mountains….today there was only the ruins of these houses, broken down, dilapidated, and just memories of a time gone by.

We stayed for a while, took some great photographs, wandered around the place – all by ourselves. There was no other sign of human activity around, just a feeling that while the pair of us were all alone in the mountains, we were not really alone!

The Daily Walk

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With the climate cooling down its the perfect time to travel to the desert to get some good pictures of the culture around us. With a little bit of patience and perseverance, and the fact that you may actually have to venture into the off-beaten track, you can find the trainers with their camels in the dunes. The satisfaction in getting these images is that other than the camels and their riders, there is no other trace of civilization around you.

We came across this group  more by chance…they suddenly appeared from behind a dune and we had to opportunity to make a few good photos before they again vanished behind another large dune. A few minutes after this the wind picked up, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of a lot of swirling sand, and very reduced visibility. There was really no way in which we could use our cameras without getting sand into them, and so decided to make our way back to our vehicle, all the while protecting our camera gear, while the sand kept getting into our eyes, mouth, hair and clothes. Something a little different from the normal routine day.

All in a Day’s Work

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Very often we tend to ignore the day-to-day happenings around us; seeing how busy we all are with our meetings, schedules and appointments. Unfortunately, we fail to realise that by doing this, we are slowly doing away with our past habits and ways of life,  and are now moving into a new way of living. This is why it is so important to preserve the cultural and behavioral habits of our surroundings.

Above is a picture of the trainers walking their camels in the morning, getting them used to the race track. This is something that happens every morning in the areas close to the Camel Race track in Dubai, and it has become such that most of the people that pass by, do not even glance towards the camels and their trainers. Interestingly, we also see a number of tyre tracks in the sand, the desert no longer belongs to the “ship of the desert” !

While modernization and progress is something that we all try to achieve in our lives, it is equally important to remember our roots, and try and strike a balance between the two.