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The Gentleman Wayfarer

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Before we begin this adventure, I have a confession.  I don’t use PhotoShop.  In fact, I don’t know the first thing about the photo editing program so you won’t find PhotoShop tutorials here.  For me, learning to be a photographer is knowing and understanding the settings on your camera – exposure, ISO, aperture, white balance, and focus.  The more years of experience you have as a photographer the more all of these setting become second nature to you.  If you can master the settings of your camera and also master splendid composition, there is little need for much photo editing because you are taking great photos, to begin with.

So, why are we here?  Why am I doing this?

One answer is easy  –  I’d like to use my experience as a professional travel photographer to help you create remarkable images.

With knowledge, experimenting with new ideas and interesting techniques we are going to make your photographs more creative and unique.  When you give your photographs an artistic touch – all within the camera – it opens a new window to the world of photography.

Photography is a creative field of study.  You can not just turn on your camera and expect magic to happen.  Wouldn’t it be cool, if it would?  It takes time and practice.

Photography is about the frame you put around an image, yet the story doesn’t end there.  It goes beyond the frame, through a kind of intuition.  It captures the gesture of a particular moment and conveys a message through careful thought and emphasis on certain key features.  It says – LOOK!   This Photo Is Special!  Some of you may even say kick-ass.

This is why we are here – to get you to the special part by learning to see in a new way.  By that, I mean mastering composition.

When you make a composition, there are countless possibilities.  This series of blog posts is designed for helping you explore the possibilities.

 

No matter when or where I go out with my camera, I seldom have a definite plan in mind.  I’ll go do a definite area or location around the world, but rarely do I know the exact images I want to capture.
 
I might go to a particular area in a city and photograph an interesting element or two.  Then, I take time to view the photographs and think how the area could be captured differently.  What could I do differently to create sensational photographs?  What perspectives could be more interesting?  Should I be higher?  Lower?  Stand on my head?
 
When I return to an area I’ve already visualized in my mind the photos I want to take.  I look at the scenes differently and with a new set of photographer’s eyes.  I could return a third or fourth time and repeat the same process.
 
Long story short, if a scene or particular area interests me enough, I’m on a mission to photograph the area in a unique way.  Rarely am I satisfied with the first images I’ve captured.  How can I photograph the familiar in a new and interesting way; this is what I’m thinking when I’m on location.  This is true whether I’m in an urban area like London or amongst inspiring landscapes like Morocco.
 
I always call photography my therapy.  When I’m out with my camera, it’s just the two of us and the world’s issues go away.  I get “lost” with my camera.  Being in tune with my surroundings is important for quality images.
 
Whether it’s beautiful architecture or rolling landscapes I’m photographing, it doesn’t matter.  Photography is almost like an escape for me.  What I’m trying to do is discover something new wherever I am.  The goal is to see the familiar in new and different ways.
 
Instead of being eye level, I’m looking up or laying on the ground or laying on the ground on my back looking up with my camera. Obviously, by approaching photography the way I do, you see the world differently.  You also see a whole appreciation for the world around you which we often take for granted.
 
And that’s what photography is for me – discovery, and this is true no matter where I am with my camera.
 
I’m looking for lines that lead to a new perspective and creating some sort of depth.
 
I continue my journey in photography because it’s something I love to do.  Photography has allowed me the opportunity to be taken out of my comfort zone.  Photography helps me learn about the world around me and cultures foreign to my own.  More than this, photography has given me the chance to learn more about myself and has helped me grow as a person.

 

The beauty of travel is it allows you to leave yourself behind.  You can be anonymous in a place you’ve never been.  By anonymous, I mean your reputation, beliefs, habits, friends, family – anything that makes you “you” where you live is behind you.  You can begin anew even if temporarily.  It is safe to say, however, the more you travel and leave yourself behind, the more you will change.  And, the more you will seek a life different than you’re accustomed to.  I, for one, love change – this is the curious gentleman in me.
The moment I walk through the security checkpoint at my home airport, I know this is the signal I’m leaving everything behind.  And no, I’m not running or hiding from anything despite what others say.  Leaving home is always an opportunity to grow more than before.  It is absolutely true my aim is to grow as it helps me become a better person.
Travel also provides the opportunity to grow your circle of friends and family.  Of course, I have blood relatives (aka family) though I can’t say I’m particularly close to any of them.  It’s safe to say I stay far away from a good number of them.  And friends?  I love my small close-knit group of friends.  Everyday life happens at home, though, and friends are busy with their own families or endlessly working to make ends meet in our uncertain times.  I don’t fault them for that.  This brings me to what I consider my real family – the ones I meet while travelling. These are the people of foreign cultures who unselfishly welcome me, share their lives, their homes, respect, talent, smiles, laughs and general goodwill.  I’ve experienced this over and over again all over the world.
Now, when I say the people whom I meet while travelling become my friends or family, I don’t mean short-term while I am at a particular place.  Contact continues and is closer than those who live less than a mile from me at home.  Strange how this works, but it does, and I’m grateful.
During my second visit to Bali, I decided to venture away from the glorious beach resort in a quest to discover true Balinese culture.  Little did I know when I arrived at the small village of Penempaham I would meet Arya Danu Palguna, more commonly known as Gede.  Gede welcomed me into his village’s Temple during a full moon ceremony.  His initial concern was the first thing I saw was the sacrificing of pigs, which I must admit was entirely unexpected.  We talked a lot and I listened a lot to Gede’s story.  His compassion drew me to him immediately.  More than this, I was fascinated to learn at twenty-two his main goal in life was to tell the real story of Bali and help preserve Balinese culture.  Seriously, I don’t know a twenty-two year old with such a lofty goal existed in any country much less a small village in Bali.
Gede impressed me so much I gave him my camera that day and asked him to email photos and video to me after I returned home.  Of course, he was speechless and surprised to receive a camera from me – a stranger he had just met a few hours before.  I thought to myself as I left the village either I hear from him or I don’t.   Months went by after I left Bali.  I hadn’t heard from Gede, and quite frankly, I put the episode out of my head.
Then one day an email arrived, then another email and another – all filled with hundreds of photos and videos Gede had captured Bali as he sees it.  He also sent nearly a hundred pages of text he had written to explain his goal.  No wonder I hadn’t heard from him in months.  He took the gesture seriously and compiled such an impressive collection there was no doubt what he wanted to do and the story he wanted to tell.
How could I not further help Gede achieve his goal?  I returned to Bali to teach him how to properly take a photo, though Gede is so talented I am more of a mentor or supporter for him than a teacher.  I’m convinced I learn more from him than he learns from me.  And, the truth is my vast education of Balinese culture comes directly from Gede.
Photography and video have been the main focus as I help this young man, though he also writes music and songs to tell the story of Bali. One day on our way to a Temple he sheepishly asked if I wanted to listen to a song his band had recorded.  “A little song” is how I remember him describing it.  I first heard “Colon Arang” as a very rough mp3 mix on a car radio. The members of the band, Hinduisme, comprise of his cousins from his small village, Penempaham.
When I listened I heard a love song.  My Indonesian is on the non-existent side so I relied on the melody and what I know as a westerner. Long story short,  I asked for a copy of the song to take to my good friend, songwriter and partner, Richard, in America.  I did just that. Richard listened to the song, fell in love with it and six months later we were back in Bali with the band in a music studio.  Richard’s account of the making of “Calon Arong” can be found on his blog at Cardo and Friends.
It turns out Calon Arang is not at all a love song but a story of black magic incantations, revenge, anger and deceit in Bali folklore.  The music and voices are stunningly beautiful.  Please take a moment to listen.
I’ve never met a young person like Gede whose goals are as big as the “Island of Gods,”  Each time I am with him my admiration and respect grows.  I could not be more proud of him.  He indeed is my brother and part of my family.   It is my goal to help make his dream come true.  Giving back.  It’s the right thing to do.  And yes, at first Bali was simply a destination but it has become so much more.
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Live Like A Gentleman

Travel is understandably a luxury for some. You simply get away leaving behind home’s routine and responsibilities.  This slice of time take you to an abstraction of reality.  Maybe you relax with an umbrella drink on a beach.  Possibly, you scurry to visit “must see” sights guide books insist you shouldn’t miss.  I always find it curious that so many travellers are content keeping arm’s distance from their hosts or they simply eye the top ten attractions from a tour bus in their chosen destination.  There is nothing at all wrong with any of the above I suppose. However, the truth is when you isolate yourself from the cultures you visit, you miss on an opportunity to learn about about foreign places.  You also miss huge opportunities to learn about yourself.  

After all, travel is the best eduction you can give yourself and you can grow well beyond your imagination. What if the boundaries of your comfort zone tumbled?  What if the fall of your boundaries occurred in a place where your bearings are upended because everything you know to be right is challenged?  Would you tremble from uncertainty?  Would you reach higher to an unknown and perhaps uncomfortable place?  There is surely only one way to find out.  

Just go and test yourself.  Step away from the beach resorts and immerse yourself in genuine Balinese culture.  I promise, the people in Bali will welcome you to their village Temple during a ceremony.  Take a camel ride through the Sahara Desert in Morocco, yes.  Stay overnight in a desert camp, yes.  But, ask to meet a nomadic Berber tribe.  They will make you feel like you’re a part of their family.  The Berber’s are just as curious about you as you are about them. And, if you want a true Buddhist education, consider a private guided tour of Bhutan.  Being the curious Gentleman that I am, I learned more about Buddhism than I ever thought possible from my guide, Kuenga.  Bhutanese culture is fascinating.  The calm, quiet and peacefulness of Bhutan will touch deep within your soul.  You’ll be changed forever even if you don’t adopt Buddhist beliefs.  The video included in this post shows you just what I’ve described above. 

If I can offer words of wisdom with regard to travel, it would be this: Sometimes travel is a leap of faith as you put your trust in completely foreign cultures and mindsets.  Always go with an open mind, an open heart and open arms.  After a few steps, you’ll soon realise you are braver, stronger, more accepting and full of more love than you ever knew possible.  Challenging what you know your own reality to be is one of the best gifts and best educations you could give yourself. 

Go far.  Travel Deep.  Go places you never thought you’d go.  Travel to a place where you’ll grow and be a better person for it.  In the end, you will have a once in a lifetime experience and brilliant stories to share. 

You might also enjoy A Gentleman’s Meaning of Travel

Travel Destinations in The Video:                                                         

Bali Indonesia   Sri Lanka   Thailand    Sahara Desert                                                         

Morocco   Bhutan