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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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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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Lisbon – Chapito

chapitoChapito – school of clowns and place where magic is reborn

Number 7 in Tripadvisor from 113 other Lisbon places mentioned there. It’s not a great place to eat, to be honest. But it’s so magical and unique – you cannot miss it, when you are visiting Lisbon.

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The place is the best, when you want to taste great wine, listen to excellent performances of fado (on Tuesdays), take part in something different – because “Chapito” it’s not only a café or restaurant – it’s a cultural space.

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So – basically – what we have there? A lot of concerts, theatre performances, exhibitions etc. In “Chapito” you can find as well school for clowns and in some special time of the year – juggling or tap dancing classes.

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I personally love this place because of two things – the great Tuesday with fado&wine and the neighbourhood. For those of you who do not know what fado is – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fado.

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Just near “Chapito” we have a “kind of a hidden” miradouro (which is a viewpoint). Now there is a restaurant near this viewpoint, but still – during the day – my favourite thing to do was going there, crossing the crash barrier just on the edge of the building – and sitting with my legs hanging out, looking at the Lisbon rooftops 🙂

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What else is special? The whole construction of this place. It has two parts – the first one is outside, surrounded by many lights (big lamps) hanging on the trees – here you can eat and drink a beer, looking at the city. The second part is a bit down, with a space for fado and other performances.

100_5308Here Ireland came to Portugal (and to Chapito):

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If you are going to step by in Lisbon some day – Rua Costa Castelo 1-7 is waiting for you and for sure you will not be disappointed. Because – to be honest – how many schools of clowns have you visited in your life? Well – for me – that was the first one and the only one 🙂