Essaouira Report: The Gnaoua (Gnawa) Music Festival

I recently returned from the coastal little town of Essaouira in Morocco, where the world-renowned 12th Festival of Gnaoua Music took place from June 25 to 28. This is an annual event, religiously attended by fans of international and African music since it’s the venue of many world-class musical groups, generally from Africa, Europe and the Americas. To me, the attraction was to photograph the exotic Gnaoua musicians during their performances, as I had heard they had small–almost private–seances in various parts of the little medina in the very heart of Essaouira.

Gnaoua (sometimes also spelled Gnawa) music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber, and Arabic Islamic religious songs and rhythms, and it combines music and acrobatic dancing. Aurally and historically, its main influence is traced back to sub-Saharan Africa, but its current practice is concentrated in north Africa, mainly Morocco and Algeria. However, I have discerned similarities between Gnaoua music and folk songs from Sudan, so perhaps its influence extends even further. (more…)

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How to Host a Meetup – Part 1

As photographers, it seems like a lot of the work we do, we work alone.

So, where do we go for inspiration, and to improve our craft?

The internet has been a huge boost to education for the introverted – they can go online, and get any number of “experts” to tell them everything under the sun.   It seems like everybody is an online expert these days (examines navel momentarily), and the good, old-fashioned “let’s meet in person” concept is from bygone days.

No more, I say!   Let us meet!

I have hosted several meetups here in my local area for photographers; I thought I’d share a bit about what goes into a meetup, how to host a meetup, and how to make sure it’s successful. (more…)

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Don’t Give Up: Keep Shooting!

Signatures of the Sun: Lightfalll
Signatures of the Sun: Lightfalll

It was about six years back; I was very, very frustrated.

I’d set my sight on capturing a particular scene in fog, a lovely grove of second-growth redwoods, ferns, and a meandering stream in Butano State Park. The location is   about a 90-minute drive, followed by a fifteen-minute hike to reach. And this was the third time I’d make the trek, and this time, as the previous two times, the fog had lifted before I arrived. For the third time, I wasn’t going to get the shot I wanted. I almost headed home in defeat, but I knew better, and I resolved to keep looking and shooting, and that has been one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

Shaking off the frustration that day, I started kicking around the stream, with it’s perfect leading line heading into the redwoods. I was struck by the uniform size and dark color of the pebbles in and around the stream, and spent a good bit of time looking for some macro opportunities before noticing a larger yellow rock in the stream, with a rust-colored leaf held against the yellow rock by the flow of water. While not tremendously exciting to me, I started working out compositions in which I could place the rock and the leaf near a corner of a shot of stream bed. Handheld was out of the question, I was shooting 50-speed Velvia, and I wanted to shoot straight down, so I started the chilly work of setting up my tripod in the stream to allow me to shoot nearly straight down.

Finally set up, I got a better look through the viewfinder and saw something that almost got me to give up. The rock kicked up the flow of the stream just enough that the water downstream was sparkling with reflections of the sun. I figured those reflections would ruin my perfect little “zen garden” composition, so I experimented for ten or fifteen minutes trying to get rid of them, with a polarizer, by adjusting the position of the camera, and so on. Again, I was frustrated; again, I pushed on.


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Are You Doing Audio Slideshows Yet?

I’m a fervent believer, a virtual “evangelist” if you will, in combining multimedia along with still photography. I can only speak to travel and documentary photography, but multimedia obviously lends itself to all visual disciplines such as wedding, landscape and other photography styles and directions.

I teach emerging photographers and photojournalists classes that shows them how to make quick work of slide show production, using their own images and audio generated in the field, to produce a cogent photo story under the simulation of publishing deadlines. Most of the class time is spent photographing in the field, while indoors time is devoted to weaving the material into photo stories, and the storytelling; the core of all multimedia productions. I will be teaching such a class at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in the Himalayan foothills of India in July 2009. (more…)

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Now is a great time to start a…

… insert venture here.

It could be a photography business (or expansion of an existing business,) maybe a magazine or newspaper, maybe a creative services company or a consulting firm. Things are tough all over and everybody is re-evaluating their budgets and plans. That spells opportunity. (more…)

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SoFoBoMo: Solo Photo Book Month 2009

SoFoBoMo has begun rercuiting for their second year, and it’s definitely worth a look.

SoFoBoMo is an project based loosely on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaSoAlMo (National Solo Album Month), efforts to provide structure for creative types to produce their first novel or musical album. SoFoBoMo participants pledge to entirely produce (from inital photography through graphic design, layout and writing) a photography book within a 31-day span (any one month span in May and June 2009). The only length requirement for SoFoBoMo is that the completed book must contain at least 35 photographs. (more…)

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Why I do this…

As my alarm went off at 4:00 am – the first thought in my head was why do I do this? As I kissed my sleeping kids and wife good-bye so I could get to the airport, I wondered, why do I do this? I loaded my bags in my truck and headed to the airport, had the whole road to myself, still wondering why do I do this? Shared the airport shuttle with a couple heading to Utah for a week of skiing, they asked where I was headed, “Santa Fe, NM, skiing they asked? No photography workshop. So you’re a photographer? I am, Wow that must be a great job. It is.” With that, I started to realize why I do this. (more…)

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