A lazy afternoon in India

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After a bit of a hiatus I’m back! I’ve had a few distractions since being back in London, but here’s hoping that I’ll get into the rhythm of posting again, as I have a vast archive of pictures still to get through that should really see the light of day, otherwise what’s the point of taking them?

I’m honoured that people have still been visiting my blog over the past few months, in spite of the absence of new posts. According to my stats I had nearly 500 viewings yesterday alone. So I figured that if people could be bothered to visit the site even when there wasn’t anything new to see, well then I should really start re-earning this attention by posting some fresh material!

So, I’m starting with an Indian picture. There is a nice serenity to this scene, shot in Madhya Pradesh I think. I feel at peace whenever I look at it. I remember it was late-afternoon at the time and still very hot. So everyone’s pace, including the dog’s, was very relaxed. I’m not sure why it seems to work in black and white – maybe because the cow was white, but it just does, for me anyhow.

The goat herder, Himachel Pradesh

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I had been commissioned to take some photos for a book on dying traditions in the Himalayas which included photographing a valley that was due to be flooded in a couple of years time for a dam. I was standing taking in the view and thinking how sad it was that this was going to happen when a lady came past herding a few goats. She too went to stand and  gaze at the landscape; she looked so beautiful against the verdant backdrop that I asked if I could take her photo. She nodded and continued to just peacefully stand there while I took a couple of shots; then she turned to me and calmly posed while I took this beautiful picture, before rejoining her goats and moving on. Her serenity comes back to me whenever I look at this photograph.

Path to the Poplars

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There are certain distinctive elements to Tuscan landscape photography: caramel-coloured stone villas or farmhouses; winding paths;  a row of poplar trees; verdant grass; vivid blue skies as a backdrop to some wonderful dramatic  clouds. To top it all there is that amazing light –  so majestic that you can understand why it was in this area that the phrase enlightenment came to pass. (A vineyard sometimes completes the scene but isn’t essential, as I hope this photograph demonstrates.)

 

A taste of Pecorino

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Yesterday I showed you the sheep responsible for Pecorino cheese. Today I thought I’d show you the cheese itself. I came across some  beautifully displayed in a shop in the town of Pienza – which is famous for its artisan Pecorino production. The scene would make a beautiful still life painting I feel (though I would recreate it with real grapes!)

Tuscany – home of pecorino

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These sheep grazing on the rich, verdant Tuscan grass are most likely producers of the ubiquitous Tuscan Pecorino cheese. It’s a subtle variety – a world away from the robust Gorgonzola or Parmiggiano-Regiano cheeses that are more commonly associated with Italy.  But its delicate flavour grows on you and it keeps well. It also looks great with its lovely earthy external texture.

Back in Italy!

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It was tough getting on a plane to leave India, but made easier knowing that I had a couple of photography jobs lined up that would take me back to Tuscany in Italy.

So here I am back again in my favourite European country after nearly a year’s absence, feeling thankful that nothing has changed. The Tuscan sun is still as glorious as ever; the olive trees, vineyards and wheat fields are still stunning; and the food and wine hasn’t lost any of its wonderful flavours.  With so much blissfulness I’ve a feeling there could be more airport tears coming up…

(Incidentally, returning to European soil doesn’t mean an end to my Indian posts – I will have the major task of cataloguing all the Indian and Nepalese photographs once my Italian jobs are completed, and no doubt posting my favourites along the way!)

Happy woman in Madhya Pradesh

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This lady was busy making upala – cow dung patties – when I asked if could take her photo. As you can see from her face, she didn’t mind at all!

Incidentally, upala are are used in abundance as cooking fuel in India, and also to cover the walls of adobe houses. (The more I learn about the many uses of the produce of cow in this country the more I realise why these animals are considered so sacred – after all even their poo is a very useful product!)

 

The M.P. hat maker

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Yesterday I posted a photograph of a lady in a beautiful Madhya Pradesh reed hat. So I thought today that I would post picture of a lady holding one of these hats that she was in the process of making, to show what wonderful craftsmanship goes into it, in spite of using very simple hand-held tools.

Woman in reed hat

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This beautiful woman is wearing one of the incredible reed hats that are hand-made in Madhya Pradesh.. I’m not sure if they are just worn during the rainy season (as they act like a kind of umbrella as well as a sunshade) but they seem to be principally worn when planting and picking rice so I suspect that is the case. (I was half-tempted to commission one for myself to protect my camera from the rain as it’s not easy taking photos whilst holding an umbrella!)

 

 

Weekly photo challenge: Fresh (2)

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Taking shelter while enjoying the fresh cooling rain of the monsoon in the jungle area of Himachal Pradesh, India.

(Posted for the WordPress weekly photo challenge)

Weekly photo challenge (theme of the week): Nostalgic

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This scene is one of my favourite pictures that I have taken on my regular treks while working as a photographer and trek leader at Banjara Camp in Himachal Pradessh, India, for the past month. Tomorrow I move on to pastures new, so naturally I am feeling nostalgic about the wonderful time that I have spent living and working here.

I think the solitary cow also represents how I feel right now too: I’m having a moment’s pause for reflection on what a wonderful few weeks it has been here, but also feeling a little bit alone in that gap before I make new friends at my next destination.

(Posted for the weekly photo challenge on wordpress)

In the garden

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I passed this gentleman on a walk yesterday that I took my guests on just outside of Thanedhar. I would have liked to have waited until the cow was facing me, but he couldn’t be persuaded and, as I was supposed to be leading the trek, I had to be happy with this and move on. The hat that the gentleman is wearing is very commonly worn by men in this area. I think it looks rather striking!

The Pujari, Hatu Temple

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Last night as I was sitting around the bonfire at Banjara Lodge, some lovely guests from Mumbai invited me to tag along with them on a mini excursion this morning, to see Hatu Peak, around 5kms from the town of Narkandar. It is the highest point in the Shimla region, standing at some 11000 ft,  so I jumped at the chance to go there and take in the panoramic views.

It was a 45 minute drive  through pretty windy roads, dodging cows and buffalo along the way, so we set off at 7am in order to be back at the lodge for breakfast. We were not lucky with the views as it was quite hazy and overcast, but I didn’t mind as my attention was drawn to a beautiful temple that looked to be Tibetan in style with its dragons and intricate wooden carvings. It was actually a Hindu temple that had apparently been deliberately designed to incorporate different religious styles.

Just as I was having my photograph taken in front of the temple, the Pujari climbed the steps towards us and proceeded to open the beautiful wooden door to enter the little interior and do his morning Puja duties. Being in the right place at the right time, this meant that I was then blessed by him and given a red dot on my forehead, plus a generous handful of little white Puja sweets to take away with me.

It was difficult to photograph him because I was supposed to be posing for a photograph myself. But I did get this lovely picture of him, showing his gentle face and noble features, while he paused for a moment in the doorway before disappearing into the dark interior of the temple . (In fact he looked slightly more appropriate than his Pujari colleague who also made an appearance. He was sporting a trendy skull-cap and huge sunglasses and was talking on his mobile the entire time – I’m wondering if he should find himself a new vocation!)

On the way back I spotted a perfect pastoral scene of a lady milking a cow, surrounded by other cows and buffaloes. I jumped out and took some photos of the scene (another day’s post perhaps) and returned to the Lodge very happy. With such an auspicious and beautiful start I have a feeling that my Summer solstice is going to be a very special one!