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Photography #1 – Ami Vitale

africaHello again everybody, this few next months I want to focus mainly on photography and topics connected to it. Of course – from time to time – there will be something different and as usual I will share my inspirations. But – that’s decided – next few months let’s take a trip all around the world, through many eyes and cameras.

So my first guest here today is Ami Vitale. If you know her – good for you, if you don’t – you better catch up 🙂 She is mostly travel photographer who loves to document different cultures. She was working for National Geographic, Newsweek, Smithsonian Magazine, Geo, Time and many more.

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In total she visited  around 85 countries! She gained many, many awards and her projects were exhibited worldwide.

From practical point of view, being asked for her equipment she said:

“I have used Nikon bodies and Nikkon lenses since I began and am currently using the D4, D800 and Df. My choice of lenses really depends on the nature of the assignment. If I am shooting wildlife, I need longer lenses like the 400mm with an extender or the 80-400mm. Most of my work is close and intimate so my workhorse is the 24-70mm or the fixed 24mm 1.8. I like to travel light and often bring just 1-2 bodies with a wide and a longer zoom, two SB-910 speedlights, radiopoppers, a gold reflector and my Manfrotto tripod. If I’m going to a remote place, I carry Goalzero solar panels and am now using the F-stop backpacks for most of my travel.”

My favorite pictures of her are the ones taken in Guinea Bissau. In 2001 she presented this one of the poorest countries on earth. The topic she focused on was  village life and female circumcision  . She returned to Guinea in 2011 and she revisited the village that she saw in 2001.

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This is what she was saying on her blog about her journey with Guinea Bissau:

Young and very green, I had applied for a grant from them back in 2000, on a whim. To my delight and horror, I got it – even beating out some National Geographic photographers I heard, who had also applied that year. I had no idea what I was doing and was terrified. But the foundation felt there was something special about my proposal to document a small village in an unstable country torn apart by war. They took a risk on me back then and changed the course of my life.”

I remember the most pictures of a female circumcision in Guinea Bissau, it’s just taking my heart and it’s smashing it.

Here are some of the most famous photographs of Ami, also the ones from Guinea Bissau, I hope somebody will take a moment and appreciate her work and also – the magic on the photos and social stories she captured.

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And my favorite picture:

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Zagreb, Croatia

DSC02963Usually when people visit Croatia, they step by to see amazing places and little towns – but close to the coast. Zagreb is not close to the coast, but it is a capital of this country. Country that unfortunately is already explored a lot by tourists, but not so long ago it was still not so known. I visit Zagreb in April 2011, so almost 3 years ago – that’s why some pictures maybe don’t fit exactly to the reality of today’s Zagreb (here is an example – cinema at this time)

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There are many nice things to see in Zagreb, like the two statues of Saint George. One is situated at the Marshal Tito Square, the other at Kamenita vrata, (over there we can find also the image of Virgin Mary – which is said to be only thing that hasn’t burned in the 17th-century fire).

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What I like the most?

It’s has the spirit of European capitals for sure, I found also a lot of bohemian and artistic roots there. I’m not gonna bore you with palaces, churches and museums. I prefer a bit different look, my look at Zagreb.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this city is that one amazing installation that it has.  This art installation is starting in Bogovićeva street and it’s called Nine Views. It represent our solar system – all of the planets – which are hide all over the city. It’s all scaled down of course – and all of other planets are in relative scale with the Sun.

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Most of the people don’t know what the statue Prizemljeno sunce (The Grounded Sun) is – so they put graffiti on it.

The city has a charming medieval ‘old city’ spirit with architecture and cobbled streets that can remind you Vienna, Budapest or Prague. I’m not gonna write more – here are some pictures of what I saw in Zagreb, enjoy!

First some amazing flowers in the park in the center (like painted!)

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Some protest i found in the main squere:

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And some other things i found in the street:

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Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Today something about one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Bosnia – Mostar. I had a pleasure to visit this city in spring 2011, during my hitchhiking trip through the Balkans, the trip lasted around 3 weeks/1 month and it was full of adventures – but about this some other time, with one of my hitchhiking-related posts.

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Why I think Mostar is important? First of all picture of Mostar originally made the cover of the Lonely Planet Western Balkans guidebook – that’s say something already.

Today Mostar  is suffering geographical division of ethnic groups (officially) but people from Mostar always find the ways to live together. The city is divided by different religion, but the atmosphere still is very pleasant.

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About the history, which is important if we want to understand why Mostar looks how it looks – this city was the most heavily bombed of any Bosnian town during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the breakup of then-Yugoslavia. So as you can imagine a lot of architecture landmarks were destroyed.

 Here is an example what memories some buildings still carry:

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Mostar has been most famous for  beautiful historic Ottoman-style bridge. It was destroyed too during the bombing. Built by the Turks in 1566, it was destroyed in 1993, but rebuilt in 2004.  Now bridge is the highlight of Mostar and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Old Bridge has been rebuilt using some of its original pieces recovered from the Neretva river.

 Here i catch a guy taking picture on the bridge and…he was catching me i guess 😀 :

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            Some other things worth seeing is a old mosque, that you can see standing proudly from every corner of the city, unique cemetery or little shops and street flee market, full of very strange things – from jewelry to carpets and old antiques.

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Definitely visiting Bosnia you have to step by in Mostar, it’s as important point of this country as Sarajewo.

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Albufera, Spain

DSC07190Some time ago, maybe it was a month or something like that, I visited Albufera – a freshwater lagoon close to Valencia in eastern Spain. It’s exactly 11 kilometres south of the city of Valencia and the reason I went there – is because Albufera has a huge Natural Park. Its waters have been traditionally worked by fishermen and rice growers.

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This Natural Park has a surface area of 21,120 hectares (52,000 acres), which is a pretty big space to visit. But the best way to see it  all– is to rent a boat. When you arrive there, around are waiting more or less 5  “casetas”/”boats”  with someone who drive it and explain every little detail about Albufera (in spanish of course). They cost just 4 euros, but it’s really worth it to take this ride. I hope the pictures will show you a little bit why is that.

 On this picture a trap for water snakes:

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The word “albufera” originate from Arabic word  al-buhayra, which literally means a “small sea”. This “sea” is very big, but also – very shallow, about 1.5m deep. When I was starting the boat trip, our 2-in-1 “captain and guide” was using a special big stick to move the boat – because it was so shallow around – of course I forgot the name of the special stick in spanish, I just remember that I really liked this name.

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What’s the most important during the ride? Birds, birds everywhere. Here we have about 250 different bird species, because Albufera is an important stopover point for migratory birds and  also a nesting area for resident birds. The whole Park was recognized as a special area for bird protection (ZEPA) since 1991. So you can take your camera and take as many pictures as you want – which I did. I’m just sharing here a very small percent of my collection.

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The 2-in 1 “captain and guide” told us many really nice informations during the trip, but of course – I preferred to be lost in honey reflexions of the sun and magnificent birds, so I  miss a lot of what he was saying. Maybe because it was full of details too – like how many kilograms each bird specie can eat during a day or a week, I could never remember that 😛

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What I remember and I will remember – is that Albufera is a great place to just breath more freely – a bit outside of the city, to have some balance, some contact with nature. The sunsets here are just amazing to witness.  People also go here, to the nearest small towns, especially to eat paella, because is one of the places where you can eat the best paella valenciana in the world (that’s what they say, I didn’t try so I can’t say if it’s true or not). Anyway – it’s a place to relax and re-think and just stop for a while, which is why I recommend it to everyone, who need a big space around from time to time.

p.s the stick is called “percha”!!!! 😀

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Missing Lisbon

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From time to time, I’m missing this beautiful city, which I had a privilege to live in for more than one year. Living now in Spain, I also miss the peace and harmony of some districts of this unique place. One of them is Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon.

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Mostly in XIX century Alfama became inhabited by the fishermen and the poor, and its condition as the neighbourhood of the poor continues to this day. But nowadays, its not so much “the poor” district, it’s more “the artistic” one. Here we have fado on every corner, here we have labyrinth of narrow streets, great view points and a lots of music, theatre and wine. And then – June’s days are coming to town – and we have Saint Anthony’s celebrations – for one month almost Alfama is full of people and everywhere you can smell the sardines and consume them with bread on almost every corner. Colorful decorations are practically waving to you, when you are putting to your poor body more and more delicious portuguese wine.

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This was on one of Alfama’s walls more than one year ago (it’s not existing now):

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During the day it’s a perfect place to just be lost. And if you will get lost – but you can see the laundry hanging outside, don’t worry, you didn’t change the district, it’s still Alfama. There is one way to get there not being tired (because like everything in Lisbon – it’s placed on the hill), taking the old yellow tram with number 28. But I personally loved to just walkup there – this way I could discover so much more. Now – some of the photos of this magical place – when I look at them I really want to do just one thing – buy a ticket to Lisbon again. Soon my baby Lisbon, soon we will be together again (I hope) 😀

here my fav way to Alfama and later, some Fado

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A beautiful photo “Mirror of Life” by Hugo Augusto. (via Retina.pt), tram 28 to Alfama 😀

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Kotor, Montenegro

DSC03297           I visited Kotor during my hitchhiking Balkan trip in spring 2011, but I still remember how breathtaking it was. Dark mountains just in front of even darker sea and charming medieval architecture.

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Some people have called Kotor the most southern fjord in Europe and there is something true in that. Kotor has one of the best preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

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DSC03296I got there very late in the evening, swimming on the boat from Croatia. All the houses in the down parts of the bay were surrounded by many lights, which made my arrival even more special. I spend there few days with a great company (people in Montenegro are so polite and warm, they meet you on the street and already invite you to their houses for cup of coffee, a meal or a friendly stay). The saying “my home is your home” is very common here.

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Of course I visited also the medieval ruins, which took me more or less 2 hours climbing and meeting working donkeys on the way – but the view from up is just…well, that’s one of the things I just can’t describe. The feeling I had seeing what I saw made me sit there looong time, just looking, without talk, without many thoughts. A truly meditational experience I recommend to everybody. If i didn’t say enough, maybe the pictures will help me a bit – enjoy!

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