30 November 2009

Mount Cook buttercup [2]

Ephemeral, fragile, tough
Ranunculus lyallii is endemic to Aotearoa/New Zealand, where it grows naturally only on Te Wai Pounamu/the South Island and Rakiura/Stewart Island. Most commonly called the Mt Cook lily, it’s actually a buttercup (Ranunculaceae). The little insect on the stamens of the central flower is a native hover fly (Syrphidae); the distant mountainside in the background is predominantly southern beech (Nothofagus) forest. This plant and many others of its species flowered on the slopes of Avalanche Peak, Arthur's Pass National Park during the 2005 summer.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

29 November 2009

Sunset, Jodhpur

Time to roost

A typical Indian sunset. The bird is a black kite (Milvus migrans).  Jodhpur, mid January 2007.

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28 November 2009

Potter spinning his wheel, Rajasthan

Mid January 2007, near Jodhpur. At the shop where the elephants and tortoises lined up, we watched the potter throw a simple vase. His wheel might have been the simplest of all forms of potter's wheel — a great disc of stone on a bearing, spun expertly with a stick. Its momentum kept it going for long periods.

Although the surrounding desert by then was brilliant, the interior of the shop was dim. The exposure for this photo was one sixth of a second at f5.6, ISO 400.

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27 November 2009

Clay tortoises, Rajasthan


At the same small shop/factory, several tortoises marched across the floor. I assume they were designed as holders for incense sticks.

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26 November 2009

Tourist-trade elephants, Rajasthan


Although made by hand, these were among many similar items produced in large numbers, presumably to be hawked to tourists, at a small shop in the desert near Jodhpur. As individual items they didn't appeal to me; as unglazed items lined up along rough shelves in the soft light of the shop’s interior, they seemed curiously beautiful.

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25 November 2009

Rabari man, Kutch, Gujarat

RabariThe evening after we'd visited these villagers I was able to get the photos printed at a local photographer's shop in Bhuj. Parbat, our guide, delivered them the following day.

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24 November 2009

Block-printing worker, Gujarat

A few minutes' rest

One of the workers at Musa's block-printing and dyeing business near Bhuj.

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23 November 2009

Tauhou (silvereye) [2]

Another silvereye, in the same location (along the driveway) as the bird from a few days ago but photographed just this morning. I wanted to try something a little different from the usual record photo, so this has been filtered fairly heavily.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

21 November 2009

Block-printer and dyer, Gujarat

The 32nd generation

Musa runs a dyeing and block-printing business in north-western Gujarat, near Bhuj. He’s the thirty-second generation in the trade; his son will eventually be the thirty-third.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

20 November 2009

Barda Hills boy, Gujarat

How long before he's in Mumbai?
This boy was probably one of this woman’s grandsons. 
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

19 November 2009

Dyer at Jamnagar

What was the question?
In Jamnagar we were treated to visits to bandhani workers, including a home where the family tied by hand the thousands of tiny knots that prevent the uptake of the dye, to the dyer — this man, who carried on a translated conversation while simultaneously stirring the cloth in a pot full of hot dye and squirting acid from a old plastic drink bottle into the mixture — and eventually to the shop, where we learned how to distinguish fine bandhani from also-ran material.

The bandhani process is perhaps better known in western countries as tie-&-dye; in New Zealand it's usually abbreviated to "tie-dye". Nothing I've seen produced here bears any resemblance in style — and certainly not quality — to the remarkable work I saw in Gujarat, particularly Jamnagar. Even if (like me) looking at textiles excites you about as much as watching your fingernails grow, the Jamnagar bandhani work is worth checking out, if only to marvel at the mind-bogglingly intensive labour and phenomenal skill that goes into its production. You can see an example of bandhani work from further north in Gujarat on this photo of silk patolas.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

18 November 2009

Growing up at Kileshwar, Gujarat

Who is he? Where does he come from?Like yesterday's kids, he seemed unsure what to make of the photographer. One can imagine what he must have been wondering, presumably having never seen anyone or anything similar. But how long will that be the case?

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17 November 2009

Kids at Kileshwar, Gujarat

Figuring us outThe wee girl was fascinated but had clearly never seen anything as outrageously weird as the tall, white, strangely attired person smiling from behind that enormous lens.

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16 November 2009

Woman at Kileshwar, Barda Hills, Gujarat

A typical smile at Kileshwar After a few days the local people recognised us and smiles like this became common.

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14 November 2009

Local woman, Barda Hills, Gujarat

In the Barda Hills
I helped this woman carry a couple of kerosene cans full of water back up the hill and, at her request (which took a while for me to understand because we had no spoken language in common), I photographed her with the yoke across her shoulders, the full cans a huge weight hanging from each end. Later, I photographed her like this. I don’t know which she preferred and have to trust the photos got to her and to the others I photographed during my few days there. Maybe I’ll get back there one day to find out. If When I do, I’ll be taking prints with me.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

13 November 2009

Evening, South Luangwa NP, Zambia

Evening, South Luangwa NP
Zambia's South Luangwa National Park remains one of Africa's best affordable wildlife viewing places. The guides have an excellent reputation, and if Akim, our guide, was typical, the reputation's very well deserved. We waited on this low hill for the sun to go down so we could begin our night drive; the park stretched out to the horizon, an immense area where the wildlife — for the moment — has priority.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

12 November 2009

Tauhou (silvereye)

Ready to goWe knew them as waxeyes when we were kids, and the old books gave a long list of other common names. “Blighty birds” was one of my favourites but I’ve never heard anyone actually call them that, although it’s still listed in most references.  Apparently they earned that particular name from their habit of eating “blight”, an old term for aphids, scale insects and the like. Ornithologists and other scientists call them Zosterops lateralis (sometimes with a subspecies added); the Maori name is tauhou, “stranger” (often translated as “little stranger”) — reference to their arrival in Aotearoa in the nineteenth century.
I went for a short walk yesterday to remind my legs what they were for and to forget about marking assignments. This little bird was one of a small flock flitting about the manuka along the driveway.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

11 November 2009

Palace guards, Gujarat

Carved in stone
At the old palace the guards keep watch, bound by time and the webs of spiders. Some have already begun to crumble into ruin; hundreds more still gaze out.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

08 November 2009

Palimpsest — palace wall, Gujarat

Old palace wall
What cyclones and earthquakes have left unfinished, time gradually completes. But as the old palace inches towards ruin, traces of the past emerge. The owner wants to turn the palace into a centre for the study and practice of restoration. Perhaps parts will be left like this — not so much unrestored, but a tangible record of its history, its ruins a record of its moments.

 All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

07 November 2009

Spider at the old palace, Gujarat

Spider on webAt the old palace somewhere in Gujarat, the spiders rule now. This, with its legs outspread in this characteristic manner, was about the size of my palm.

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06 November 2009

Draper at Udaipur, Rajasthan

Draper at Udaipur
He invited us in, ordered chai for us, chatted for a while and expected nothing in return except conversation.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

05 November 2009

A hand at the wedding

Hand In 2006 I helped out at the wedding of friends. While they were dancing I photographed, and this moment caught my eye. It seemed to sum up so much. The wedding dress was apparently an heirloom; it had a grace and elegance that seems uncommon among contemporary wedding dresses (an assessment based on my admittedly limited knowledge of such things — but even I thought it was particularly beautiful).
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04 November 2009

Mother and child, Udaipur, Rajasthan

After chatting for a while, I asked if I might photograph her. She seemed pleased; her son by that time was utterly bored.

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03 November 2009

The Nyika Plateau, northern Malawi

Nyika Plateau
The Nyika Plateau: grasslands rolling on forever, small areas of scrub and forest, rock outcrops. Thunderstorms and wild light. Roan antelope, zebra, bushbuck, reedbuck, eland, many wonderful birds. The possibility of  hyaenas, wattled crane, Denham’s bustard, leopard.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

02 November 2009

Tokeawa Stream, Pohangina valley

Tokeawa stream
Yesterday morning we walked down the road to the Tokeawa Stream. Bright sunlight danced over swift, shallow water, the patterns of light and shadow on the algal-covered rocks changing continuously like the moments themselves.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

01 November 2009

Zebra, Nyika Plateau, Malawi

On the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, Crawshay's zebra (Equus guagga crawshayi, a subspecies of the plains zebra) were common. Although a lone zebra in grassland like this appears conspicuous, a herd can be confusing to look at, particularly when they're running, and I imagine they'd be hard to spot in the dappled light of the small patches of forest scattered around the Plateau.
[Updated 3 November 2009 to add details of identification]

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor