Monday, August 28, 2017

The Political Rebirth of Joe Arpaio

I revisited my archive of Arpaio photos in light of President's Trump's announcement to grant a presidential pardon of Joe Arpaio. These photos were made while I was working in Phoenix 1999-2012. Lots of links to topically related stories.   
June, 2012, Arpaio walks through a crowd of reporters during a protest in front of his jails on Buckeye Road in Phoenix. The protest was organized by the Unitarians and was one of the largest anti-Arpaio protests in Phoenix.

Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, loved the spotlight. He basked in its warm glow. Needed it, like an addict needs heroin. He sought it out incessantly. He didn't do anything during his tenure at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office without first considering how it would burnish his reputation. 

In my 13 years in Phoenix, I saw Arpaio make just one principled decision. 

In April, 2005, an off duty Army reservist pulled into a rest area on Interstate 8. He saw several Hispanic men there and assuming they were undocumented immigrants, claimed "self defense," pulled a gun on them and made a "citizen's arrest." Maricopa County's newly elected Republican County Attorney Andrew Thomas (since disbarred for bringing false prosecutions against political opponents) called the reservist a hero. Arpiao, in the only principled decision I saw come out of his office, called the reservist's claims "hogwash" refused to arrest the immigrants and, in fact, arrested the reservist
Arpaio craved the media spotlight.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Thoughts

This is not a pixel peeping review. It's more my general thoughts on the E-M1 Mark II with what I consider its strengths and weaknesses. 
Nahuatl dancers in downtown St Paul during the Minnesota March for Science. (Olympus E-M1 Mark II, 12mm-40mm f2.8 Pro Zoom, ISO200, 12mm, f2.8 @ 1/4000) 

I bought a couple of Olympus E-M1 Mark II bodies while we were back in the US in April. The E-M1 Mk2 is the Olympus' top of the line camera in the Micro 4:3 universe. Regular readers will know that I started my Micro 4:3 journey in 2010 with a Panasonic Lumix GF1 and a couple of Panasonic "pancake" lenses. 

I was very happy with the tiny GF1, used within its limitations it was a great camera. But it was definitely version 1 of the Micro 4:3 universe. The autofocus was only adequate (i.e. it was okay in good light but suffered any other time and continuous AF was basically unusable) and high ISO performance was not very good. I seldom used the GF1 above ISO800. Still, it showed me that the days of big and clunky dSLRs was were limited, that the mirrorless revolution was a flood that could be controlled but not stopped. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Bali's Local Markets

A part of the local market in Payangan (made with a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye). 

If you're in Bali and you wake up at 4AM and can't get back to sleep, I can't imagine a better way to spend the predawn hours than going to a local market. Bali's local markets are lively places that serve as much as a community gathering as a shopping destination. 
Men have breakfast and check their smart phones in the Bringkit market, about 30 minutes from Denpasar. 

Markets in Asia are kind of a tourist trope. In Bangkok, tourists have a regular route of the weekend market, a floating market (there are many), the flower market and so on. And almost all of them are tourist traps. (The flower market is a "real" market between 4AM and 8AM but switches over to mostly tourists around 8AM.) The floating markets, in particular, are notorious tourists traps. 

There are a couple of "real" markets in Bangkok, especially Khlong Toei Market, but you have to get to there early to see them in full swing. But early in Bangkok is between 5.30AM and 6AM. And things slow down between 8AM and 9AM. 

Early in Bangkok is nothing compared to early in Bali though. Tourists in Bali go to the markets in Ubud, Kuta, Denpasar and look at the colorful batiks, the ukuleles and sunglasses. They spend a lot of money on souvenirs of their Bali holiday but they don't see the real markets of Bali. 
Shopping for bananas in Payangan. 

In Bali, the local markets open between 3AM and 3.30AM and hit their peak about 4AM. In Ubud's local market, the venders who sell fruit and produce to local people pack up and leave between 7.30 and 8AM, to be replaced by venders selling tourists' kitsch by 8AM, just as the tourists are rolling away from their hotel breakfast buffets. 

In a lot of the less touristy places though this isn't the case. When their markets close, they close. Drive by at 9AM and it's deserted. Drive by at 5AM and it's swarming with people. 
Shoppers in the Payangan market. 

I don't want to sound the death knell of local markets in Asia, but they are facing an uncertain future. In Thailand, for example, (the place I know best) there are now modern grocery stores in almost every town of any size. Pick them up and drop them whole into an American suburb and shoppers would be hard pressed to tell the difference from their local Safeway or Kroger's. As Thailand has industrialized and become more middle class, people have gone from shopping in markets to shopping in grocery stores. Increasingly, it's just working poor (and restaurateurs who want the freshest ingredients) who use the markets. 

Grocery stores have not invaded Bali though. There are a couple in Ubud and Denpasar but most of the people who shop in them are expats and retirees who opted for life in the slow lane. But so slow that they want to give up their grocery stores. 
At the Bringkit livestock market men haggle over the price of a Bali cow. The Bali cow is a domesticated form of banteng (wild cattle). You see them everywhere in rural Bali.

Because venders travel from market to market, Bali's local markets are usually open on every three day rotating schedules. The local market in Ubud is open every day at 4AM and the Bringkit livestock market is Sundays only, but otherwise your chance of stumbling upon an open local market depends largely on luck or getting the market schedule. 
Some of the local markets are well known for one or two products. In Bringkit it's livestock. In Bebandem it's baskets. The Bebandem market is about 30 minutes from the tourist beaches along Candidasa Road, on the far eastern end of Bali. You wouldn't know that if you were in the market. It's a great sprawling market in the mountains above the Bali Sea and tourists seldom journey up to it. 
Still in Bebandem, men chat. The man in the middle was selling live chickens. 

Bali's local markets are a reflection of life on the island. In a place frequently described as paradise, the bounty of Bali's fields are on full display in the markets. 
Buying chillies and garlic in the Payangan market.

Bali's spiritual side is also well represented in the markets. Many markets have a temple (Ubud's market temple is especially easy to find) and almost every Hindu owned shop in the markets has a small shrine where offerings are made throughout the day. 
A woman makes an offering in a shrine in her shop in the Sukawati market. 

There are many more photos of Bali's local markets in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Kuta's Fishing Port and Market

Men push an outrigger fishing canoe up onto the beach in Jimbaran, Kuta, Bali. These tiny canoes stay out overnight on the Indian Ocean.  

I went to another fishing port on Bali. Jimbaran Beach is just south of Bali's international airport. Up until the 1980s, it was a quiet village best known for its fishing fleet and excellent seafood market. But things change and development came to Jimbaran. It's a really nice beach - beautiful white sand, gently sloping, swimmable in the middle and surfable on the edges - and now hotels ring the perimeter of the beach and restaurants line the beach. The middle of the beach though still retains its original charm. Outrigger fishing canoes line the beach and a very active fish market clings to the center of the beach. 
A vender in the seafood market cuts up a fish for a customer. 

The best time to see the traditional side of Jimbaran Beach, as it originally was, is very early in the morning. From before sunrise until about 9:00AM. That's when the traditional fishermen rule, and tourists, for the few who venture out at the hour, are watching the fishermen and wandering through the market. 
A woman sells fish on the beach early in the day. 

I can't help but wonder how long the fishing industry can hang on in Jimbaran. I am not a beach person, but even I have to agree that Jimbaran is a beautiful beach. At some point the land will be more valuable as a tourist haven than it is a fisherman's home.

A traditional fisherman repairs his nets on the beach. 

I got to the beach well before sunrise and it was already an active scene. Fishermen, in their tiny outriggers, were coming back to shore, while tenders went back and forth from trawlers to shore bringing crewmen and fish back to the beach and taking new crewmen and tools out to the trawlers. It was a fascinating scene. 
Crewmen in a crowded outrigger canoe come back to shore from a trawler. 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Black and White on Bali

A farmer uses oxen to till his fields in Jembrana. The Indian Ocean is in the distance. (Pen-F, 25mm f1.8, ISO100, f1.8@1/8000th) 

Bali is not a place I would associate with black and white photography. The island's color palette is extraordinary and when I photograph on Bali I am thinking in color. But on the drive back to Ubud from the buffalo races in Jembrana I carried my Pen-F instead of an E-M1 Mark II. I always shoot RAW+JPEG and with the Pen-F, the JPEGs are monochrome, using my sort of Ilford HP5 simulation. 
A tunnel. Through a tree. On the highway in Pekutatan, Jembrana, Bali. (Pen-F, 17mm f1.8, ISO200 f1.8 @1/640th)

I was able to make a few photos as we made occasional stops on our drive through paradise. 

One of the advantages of RAW+JPEG is that I still have the color RAW files for commercial use if I want to go that way. With the top photo, of the farmer tilling his field, the color was also very nice, but the color versions of the photo above, the tree, were not very good. I processed the rice field in color but not the tree. 
In Ubud, a rice field hemmed in by construction. This picture worked well in color. (Pen-F, 17mm f1.8, ISO200, f3.2 @1/5000th)

When I use my E-M1 Mark II bodies, which is most of the time, the JPEGs I shoot are for Instagram. I archive and develop the .orf (raw) files, but I discard the JPEGs when I reformat the cards. The E-M1 Mark II is a great camera but it doesn't have the degree of customization of JPEGs that the Pen-F does, specifically the monochrome grain simulation settings. That seems to be a feature Olympus is reserving for the Pen-F. I like the grain simulation. It gives extra texture, for the lack of a better word, to the photos. 

Still in Ubud, I went out to photograph kite flyers. It was a sort of overcast day, so I stayed with the Pen-F and BW JPEGs. (Photo of Superman with his kite, 45mm f1.8, ISO200, f1.8@1/5000th. Photo of family on motorbike, 17mm f1.8, ISO200, f1.8@1/160th) 

Full sized Black and White and Color versions of the photos are in the Bali (All) gallery in my archive. I will be doing a mini-review of the E-M1 Mark II in a couple of weeks. What I like about it (almost everything), and what disappoints me (very, very little). 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

And They're Off!

On the straightaway at a buffalo race in Jembrana. The "whip" is a studded stick drivers use to urge the animals to run faster. 

I went back to the buffalo races in Bali. The season is pretty short, from July through October. The races are held every other week and they're in out of the way locations far from the tourist centers of Ubud and Kuta/Sanur. All of which means going to the races is as much of an adventure as the actual races. 

This year, I was able to stop to make pictures of rice farmers and fisherman, so the trip was well worth the investment in time and money.
A man pulls his team of buffalo to the starting area. 

Racing water buffalo may seem like a contradiction, because they look slow and unagile. But they are surprisingly fast, even if they are unagile. 

Buffalo are raced throughout Asia. In Thailand, men ride them in the same way jockeys ride horses, in Sumatra, men ride a ski like contraption pulled by buffalo, in Java they ride plows pulled by buffalo and in Bali they ride small carts, not unlike silky, or trotter, racing in the US. 
A pair of racers come into the finish line. 

The rules for Balinese buffalo racing are kind of complicated. The winner is determined by how much distance there is between teams at the finish line. The race is held on a narrow track that winds through rice fields and racers start at the same time, but one behind the other (there are usually two teams on the track at one time, but sometimes there are three). There is a set distance between the two teams. The winner is based on whether or not the distance changes at the end of the race. If the first time pulls further ahead by the finish line, it wins. If the second team (or third team) closes the gap, it wins. If one team passes another, a gutsy move since the course is barely wide enough for two teams to pass, it wins with a roar of approval. 
Spectators stand in a rice field and watch the races. 

It's when there's a third team on the course that things get really interesting. The course is an unpaved road that, every other day of the year, is used by people going about their daily lives. The races are a mere diversion and people, even on race day, use the road to get from point A to point B, though thankfully only on foot (motorbikes and not allowed on the course on race day). 

People clear off the road when they hear the carts coming and then get back on the road after the second cart passes. It's when there's a third cart, bringing up the rear, that things get "interesting." Locals are smart enough to look before running back onto the road, but tourists not so much. I didn't see anyone get hit, but I did see a couple of close calls as people wandered back onto the road to get to a better vantage point, only to realize at the last minute that were still buff on the course.
A cart speeds down the track. 

Complicating the scoring is that races are not only between individual teams, but also between communities. Communities have their own flags, red (first photo) and green (above). The final winning community is based on a cumulative score drawn from that day's races, with more importance given to the last races of the day, run by each community's best teams. It's a complicated way to figure out who has the fastest water buffalo. 
The buffalo wear ornate headdresses. 

It's worth going to the races if you are in Bali on a race weekend (every other Sunday July - October) and you can figure out where they are and you can arrange transportation up to Jembrana. In addition to the races, you will see slices of island life that foreigners don't often see.
Vying for position at the finish.

A boy pulls his buffalo out of an irrigation ditch they lumbered into after the race. 

Most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Life Near the Sea

A fisherman in Airkuning, a fishing village on the Indian Ocean in southwest Bali, carries an outrigger to shore after landing his canoe (background) following a night at sea. 

A lot has been written in the international press lately about fishing in waters of Southeast Asia. Most of it is bad news related to overfishing, depletion of fish species, slavery and climate change. Factory trawlers, many crewed by virtual slaves, prowl the seas scooping up everything that swims. Fish that have market value (big predator fish and tuna - especially tuna) are kept on ice and processed. Small fish or fish that don't have market value are ground up into fish meal. The oceans are being emptied before our eyes. 

Villagers push outriggers up onto the beach in Airkuning. 

Some people, though, still cling to their traditional life. One such community is Airkuning, in southwest Bali. People here still go to sea every night in tiny outrigger canoes to do subsistence fishing for their families and to sell what they don't eat (or vice versa, and eat what they don't sell). The canoes are much smaller than they look. The "deck" is a rattan mat practically at gunwale level. Nets and the catch, when there is one, are stored below deck. They still have masts and sails and use wind power when they can but almost all of them also have outboard motors.
An outrigger under engine power motors through the breakers on its way out to lay nets. 

Their catch is getting smaller all the time though. As the boats came in while I was there, very few had a usable catch. Many were empty. 
A woman carries supplies from her husband's canoe back to their home after he came back in the morning. 

Perhaps even more shocking was that nets hauled in from shore pulled in little besides tiny, palm sized fish and plastic (there is always plastic). 

Men haul in net lines set out by a canoe earlier in the morning. 
This was their catch. It took about 15 men more than an hour to haul in a net line about a kilometer long. And this is all that came out of it. Some small fish and plastic bags. 

Whether or not they do it by choice, I have a lot of respect for people who live this way. I don't think I could do it and I realize that by the luck of the circumstances I was born into I don't have to. 
Men coil up the net after it was hauled in. 

A family brings their canoe up the beach. 

A canoe is brought up the beach. Outriggers, that prevent the tiny vessels from flipping, lay on the sand, waiting to be collected. 

Most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bali and Rice

Rice terraces in Jatiluwih, Bali. 

It's impossible to escape rice in Bali. It is literally everywhere. You see rice growing in urban Denpasar, near the international airport, on your way out of town. It's on almost every plate of Balinese (or Indonesian) food you order. There are fields crammed between hotels in Ubud. There are so many rice fields in the countryside that other crops seem startlingly out of place. 
A woman carries freshly cut rice out of a field near Jatiluwih. 

I've photographed rice farming in every trip I've made to Bali and I promised myself I wouldn't do it this time. But like so many promises one makes to oneself, this one was forgotten as soon as I started a trip across the island. 
A farmer tills his field. Mechanical tillers are making inroads in Bali, but most farmers still work with water buffalo and oxen. 

The rice fields are like catnip to photographers. For landscape photographers, there are great vistas, endless fields of emerald green. For photojournalists there are photographs of people toiling to eke out a living under difficult circumstances.

Farming in Bali not like industrial agriculture in the United States or even Thailand. 

This is farming as it's been practiced for millenniums, since man first domesticated beasts of burden. This is the way agriculture is still done in much of Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, India. It wasn't until late 20th century that Thai agriculture became mechanized.
A woman loads rice into a thresher... 
While another, under the conical hat, surrounded by chaff, sorts rice. Even portable mechanical threshers are unusual in Bali. Jatiluwih may be more prosperous than many villages because it collects an admission fee from non-Indonesians driving through the terraces. 

Rice farming is changing even in Bali though. Mechanization is creeping in. There aren't many tractors yet, but small mechanical tillers are more common. The real danger is real estate speculators. It seems like every foreigner who comes to Bali, whether as a tourist or retiree, wants to stay in the middle of a rice field. This is driving up land prices and many farmers (or villages, if the land is communally owned) are selling or giving long term leases to developers who want to build villas in the rice paddies. 
In central Ubud, a rice field surrounded by tourist housing. "Downtown" Ubud is just behind the new construction in the background. 

Most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Back to Bali

A dancer at a ceremony in a Hindu temple outside of Ubud. 

I'm headed back to Bali for a couple of weeks. Bali is a great place for a photographer, there's no shortage of subjects, from Hindu ritual to hard working farmers to fisherman to radiantly green landscapes, Bali has it all. 
Dancers mimic birds during a mass cremation ceremony in Ubud. 

Bali is about a four hour flight from Bangkok, so it's a place we've been to a few times. This time, I'm hoping to photograph workers in the fishing industry, buffalo racing and daily life. 
Buffalo racing on the west end of Bali. 

Some of it, like the fishing, I've done before, but I want to spend more time working on it and some of the daily life features I want to revisit because it's been a few years since in really rural Bali, away from the tourists. If I have time and things work out the way I hope they do, I plan to photograph seaweed farmers who live on a small island north of Bali. 
Women working in a rice field near a guest house for tourists. Mass tourism is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it provides economic opportunities for many Balinese, but on the other it's destroying what makes Bali unique. I've photographed a lot rice farming in Bali, I'm not planning to photograph it on this visit. 

I hope to update my blog on a regular basis, but that depends on how good the internet access is in the places I'm staying.