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Sunny South Africa | The Cape | + Debra

Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (15)

Posted by + Debra

Whew! So I just got home from attending the “A Practical Wedding Book Tour” in Atlanta, hosted by Young Blood Gallery and “A Wedding Day Hooray“.  I am feeling energized! It’s always a pleasure to meet funny, open minded, outspoken, and honest people.  Meg of APW is all that and a bag of chips, probably a coke too.  She had everybody in stitches with funny stories, and sage advice for the female entrepenuers. I loved how she wore a dress that could have been for an ice skater, or dancer…I half expected her to pirouette across the floor, or just as easily strap on some skates and field questions from the audience.  In attendance where were loads of awesome couples, and a fistful of Alumni Interns, and current interns, and the awesome +Raven, and Baby Rox with his wonderful mom and cool pop.  It made me all the more grateful for the wonderful people here at the LeahAndMark.com family.

I really appreciated Meg’s candor, as I have also been appreciating her blog and the many people who contribute to it.  I gotta be honest, I just love anybody who can call bull$___ out in public, and say what they mean, and mean what they say, and all that jazz.  How awesome to have people telling you that your wedding doesn’t have to equal a downpayment on a house? I feel if you got and want to spend it, then good for you.  But, if your like me and “don’t got it” and don’t want to spend it, then you should be able to have your wedding day be just as special, and just as amazing.  this is of course coming from the same girl who was planning on getting married in jeans, at least up until a few hours ago (Thanks Lucy for the inspirational quip).   A very cool group of people this evening, and I can’t wait to read the book, I have a feeling it will be just as funny, honest, and candid as Meg was in person.

Ok, onward to my blog post.  This is the last installment of my trip to South Africa.  This time focused on the Cape.  Now the region of the Cape is very large, there are hundreds of small towns, and one very large city.  It is a diverse and beautiful part of the country with mountains stretching on for days, oceans going on for miles and miles, and epic sunsets every night with great people, awesome food, and amazing wine.  There is no way I could sum up the Cape in just a few blog posts, the end message is really that a country and place as amazing as South Africa can take an entire lifetime to experience.  I could spend a month in the Southern Cape and still feel like I barely scratched the surface.

It.Is.An.Amazing.Place.

Hout Bay: Home of Seal Island.  We rode a small boat out to Seal Island, and got to eat some seriously awesome amazing fish and chips.  OMG YUMMY! Really tasty fresh fish.  It was quite difficult to photograph the seals as the water was very choppy.  My trusty little Lumix did well to get at least this 1 clear shot.  Be advised, if you get seasick, you may want to skip this one.  The waves combined with the intense stench of the seals will turn even the steel lined stomach of the hardiest person.  I was a bit green, and I notoriously can handle just about anything! I absolutely loved getting to see the baby seal with the mom, and the man who cared for them.  We all cheered and such.

Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (26)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (25)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (16)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (24)Boulders Beach: Ok, ok, I have a mild obsession with arctic animals, and the only thing better than seeing flipping penguins could have been seeing polar bears.  But there were no polar bears, so the penguins definitely took the cake for my Cape Town experience.  And the only thing better than seeing penguins, was getting to swim with them.  Sit with them.  Sunbathe with them.  YES! I know right, how cool is that!! Boulders beach is a small private beach with limited entry and gives you a chance to sit, sunbathe, and SWIM with penguins.  Best morning on the beach ever.  There is a small fee, and the beach fills up quickly.  If you happen to go, go to the outskirts, it involves some climbing but gives you a very secluded morning with the penguins (eeeep! so cool!).  Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (22)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (20)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (13)Cape Point: The national park that is home of the continental tip of Africa, and surrounding bays and Capes.  It is a full afternoon, and I recommend a snack, a sweater, and some sneakers.  You will do ALOT of walking.  It is a national wildlife refuge.  The salty air is voluptuous, and hinders the growth of most plants.  Only very hardy and native plants thrive in the park.  These trees are quintessential African trees, strong, tall, and proud.  There are a few of them scattered through the park.  For the most part the horizon is flat, and both sides are flanked by the ocean, making it all the more obvious that you are approaching the tip of the continent.  It was very exciting!Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (1)It felt like the sky and ocean were one and the same here.  Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (7)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (8)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (19)In case you were wondering, the very tip of continental Africa is VERY VERY windy. We had a good laugh trying to get this self portrait of us 3.  My brother would have lost his eyes to my hair if not for his glasses.  We all scribbled on the rocks the initials of the multiple people we love, temporary markings of the time we were in that special place.  Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (21)This is the very tippy tip of Africa! The lighthouse is newish from 1918. Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (17)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (18)These ostriches were on the side of the road, and looked a mite mean.  I didn’t dare roll down the window, I swear I thought he would peck my eyes out. Ostriches are magnificent creatures, and their eggs are made into costly curios quite regularly.

Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (15)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (14)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (9)Sentinel Hill:  offers wonderful sunset views of the Cape and surrounding bays, including Table Mountain.  This evening was special in and of itself because as soon as the sun was down, you were greeted by the rising moon.  Another example of the wild, untamable beauty to be found in the Cape. Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (6)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (5)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (4)Robben Island: Island Prison 11km from Cape Town for Political Prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Living conditions were unbearable, and many prisoners lost their eye sight working in the direct sunlight in the lime quarry.  It was bright, hot, and an incredible sparse place.  The amazing thing to remember and walk away with after visiting Robben Island is the heroic stories of how the men held captive were able to boost eachothers spirits and work on becoming educated.  They shared letters, and books, songs, and love. It is a testament to the intrinsic wealth of mankind when we turn ourselves inward and love one another despite the misfortune or fortune they might be in the midst of.  Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (10)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (11)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (12)Table Mountain: The wind and weather of Table Mountain is world renowned, almost as well known as the spectacular views.  We tried 2 times to go up the mountain only to be turned away because of the fierce winds howling down.  Wind BTW looks just like clouds.  Who knew? We did finally make it up the mountain the day I flew out of South Africa, it was the perfect last morning in Sunny South Africa.  The views were amazing, all around.  Cape Town and all surrounding areas are beyond breath taking.  Truly one of the most amazing places in the world.  Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (3)Debra Edgar | South Africa | Cape Town | LeahandMark.com (2)

– All photos taken with the Panasonic DMC ZS8 and the iPhone 3.

Sunny South Africa | The Karoo Desert | +Debra

Debra Edgar | African Safari | LeahAndMark.com

Posted by +Debra

 After leaving Kruger National Park we began driving through the country down towards the Cape.  It was about 3 days of driving, stopping the first 2 nights in various cities.  My siblings and I opted to journey the scenic way to give ourselves an opportunity to experience and see the awesome diversity in South Africa’s climates.  We watched the lush green trees, mango orchards, litchi farms, and banana groves turn slowly into the low feld with tall grasses and long thin trees.  The further South we moved the drier and hotter it got.  We crossed the Orange river and then found ourselves in the Karoo Desert.  It was hot.  It was dry. It was beautiful in its own way.

It was in fact so hot that our car broke down, timing belt shredded to pieces and the radiator hose went kaplooie.  In the middle of nowhere.  Literally, we broke down on a scorching hot day in the middle of the desert, just north of this small town called Middleburg.  The same small town where my grandparents ran a mission for 25+ years, the same small town I actually remembered from my childhood many years ago.  However it was still a good 20 miles away, and that is not walking distance in 110 degree heat.  No thanks.

 I am not gonna lie, I was a bit worried when we broke down, and kept picturing newspaper articles on how 3 people went missing, I pictured all sorts of horrible things happening…I mean it’s not like theres a tow truck and a mcdonalds down the road…but I quickly pushed those morbid thoughts away and tried to help my brother figure out how to get us moving again  It was a sparesly populated region, and it was so hot.  Luckily for us, we had tons of water, a leather belt, and some brave ingenuity.  We tied a makeshift hose, filled the water and rollde a few more miles down the highway in search of help.  We spotted a sign for a bed and breakfast, and heaved a massive sigh of relief when a cozy white farm house appeared out of the heat waves.  I could have been imagining it, but a small voice in my head started singing some sort of thankful praise, like my own mental gospel choir.  

 A lovely woman who ran the bed and breakfast came to our rescue, offered us cold drinks, and fresh homemade food which consisted of fresh ground mutton, which her husband raised, fresh corn which she grew, fresh bread that baked, and jam that she made from her small orchard that she lovingly waters from a well on her farm.  It was AMAZING.  The food was so good, so fresh, so simple and just downright wholesome.  It was easily one of the best meals I have ever had, and as an ex chef, and avid foodie, that’s pretty darn good.  We made arrangements for repairs and for lodging for the night and spent the afternoon exploring.

It’s been so long since I was without basic comforts and luxuries, like tv, internet, fridges with food.  I had forgotten what it was like to be child like and explore and wander around, letting my imagination run free and not having other people give me ideas but just letting myself think and explore without influence.  For me, my brother and sister, it was truly an afternoon to be kids again.  We explored under rocks, gawked at bugs, made silly shadows, and all in all had an awesome time.  It was an afternoon to remember, and a real blessing in disguise.  Sometimes I remember to relax and let life unfold.  Sometimes our adult selves are given a chance to be a kid again, and to refresh the good moments of being a child and appreciate the NOW so much more.  It was a special afternoon and will always be thought of fondly.

– All photos from a Panasonic Lumix DSC- FZ8, and Iphone 3s.

Day Four Five Six

Hey. Leah’s here now. See the photo above? Didn’t I tell you that it’s just different when she’s around? So basically I’ve been hanging around the area where we’re staying – Boudha – and the Bodhnath stupa. This morning was the first morning that Leah’s been here so I woke her up at 5am and we walked in the darkness to sit on the steps in front of one of the monasteries and have some chai.

A few days ago after making the rounds, I ordered chai from this woman who is setup just off the steps where I sit to watch all of the people praying while I hunt for shots. She’s the nicest, and she has the best chai – so I usually order like 5 small cups (at 10 rupees per (it’s about 70 rupees per dollar.))

So that’s basically been the schedule – wake up around 5am, gear up, walk to the stupa – shoot – make a few rounds, and then order a chai and sit on the steps of the monastery. Order more chai from my friend and keep looking for shots. Like this one.

Of course today was different because Leah’s here – and she always makes new friends.

This boy saw us and almost immediately sat down beside Leah. He didn’t really talk at first and we didn’t really get the feeling that he was just hanging out to get some money – so we hung out – and watched people walk by. He laughed at some of them and I of course took pictures of him – and then we eventually got him his own cup of chai.

And then yeah – some of his family came over to see what was going on – and to check out all of the photos Leah had on her phone (Droid!) – because we’ve kind of learned that when we travel abroad and meet new people – sometimes they’re interested in seeing photos of our life back home in the U.S.

After we finished our chai all three of us went up on the stupa and eventually Leah had a little dance party with our friend. Oh yes. Video later.

Today we also went over to some more touristy spots – did some shopping (Northface sleeping bags because it’s COLD in our guesthouse – and we’re going to be going up into the Himilayas in a few days.) Lots and lots and lots of good stuff to show you guys when we get back home. My original goal was to come back with a good amount of CONTENT. I’ve succeeded so far and we have a lot, a lot of both photos and video.

See you tomorrow.

Kathmandu. Nepal. Photos. Travel. Photography. Stupa. Bohdna. Bohdnath.

Before Dawn in Kathmandu

Even though I’m not primarily a ‘travel’ photographer – I at least know that if you really want to get the shots that the tourists won’t get, you have to wake up before dawn and get out there before even some of the locals start their day.

That’s a little difficult here since it seems like the Buddhists are out and about walking around the stupa at 4am – well, they’re at least out before 5am because on the first morning I got to the stupa at 6am – just as the sun was rising, and then the next day I got there an hour earlier at 5am because I wanted a little more time before daylight hit – and it was packed.

Now these are the shots most people won’t get because hey – it’s about 35 degrees in the mornings right now, and it means you had to wake up at 4:30am. Of course, every morning when I walk downstairs the ‘guard’ scares the hell out of me since he’s usually lying down somewhere in the darkness and just wakes up all of a sudden. I play it cool – but um yeah, it’s a really weird way to start every day. And then I walk through the pitch black alleys, trying not to trip – and trying to not be freaked out by the deep, rumble of people in the darkness around me, also walking to the stupa and reciting their prayers… it’s honestly kind of like walking next to zombies in the darkness – so I walk fast.

The first day I just kind of checked things out – since I was a good bit trigger shy. But after my 5 hour hike around the outskirts I got over that – and the next morning I was all about getting my shots. Of course – I’m not dumb and I generally avoided the targets that were obviously going to chase me down and try to make me pay them if I took their photo. Communicating with your subjects is key – or you know – shooting and then quickly walking away.

 

On a different note – it’s funny how along with the usual ‘I want to get good shots because I’m a photographer’ – I also kind of feel obligated to just totally rock while I’m here – for the Interns. One of the things I’ve said before is that everything I shoot, I shoot for practice. Whether it’s weddings, or family portraits, or events – it’s all practice for some unknown opportunity. Because one of the things I worry about the most is simply wasting a photographic opportunity because I wasn’t ready – because my skills weren’t where they should have been.

I say this without boasting – but it takes some nerve and even skill to regularly get close to strangers, take their picture – and to walk away without getting yelled at – or to simply start a conversation that way. You’ll notice that my travel photography isn’t primarily lanscape photography – so all I have left are people. I know I’ve only been shooting for about a year and a half – but I’ve been practicing nearly every day since I picked up my dSLR back in August of 2009.

See you tomorrow.

Kathmandu. Nepal. Travel. Photos. Photography. Bodhnath. Stupa. LeahAndMark.com

Walking Around The Outskirts

It took me two hours of walking until I finally warmed up to photographing. I don’t know what it was – but I just wasn’t really feeling my shots. I wasn’t in the mood to pull out the camera and really work things. So I walked. And I kept walking. Uphill even.

First I went uphill and to the East, away from the Bodhnath Stupa – I didn’t know how far I would go, just that I would walk until I didn’t feel like walking uphill anymore. An hour later, I turned around. Of course I didn’t see another photographer and I definitely didn’t see anyone other than the people that live here. As I continued walking I’d wave hello to the shopkeepers, or the metal workers, or… the people lying down in the fields of dead grass and garbage. That was on the way up.

On the way back, I pulled out my camera and started looking for shots. While some photographers will tell you that they love their long, 300mm lenses when they travel because they can ‘catch’ people – I’ll tell you that I love my 35mm prime. Sure it’s a 50mm on my camera body – but that’s perfect.  Because you don’t get shots like these from 40 feet back, and you can’t get them without having a technique to how you photograph. There’s no hiding when all you’ve got is a prime lens and you have to get within five feet of your subject – or closer.

With a 300mm lens – you’re rarely getting anyone looking right into your camera. And for me – if they’re not looking right down my lens then what’s the point? I want the connection between me and the subject – even if it’s just for 1/125 of a second and three frames.

See you tomorrow.

Kathmandu. Nepal. Photos. Bodhnath. Stupa. Bohda. Travel. Photography. LeahAndMark.com

Arriving in Kathmandu

I really like traveling. I like it so much that it’s embarrassing to think back to just a few years ago – when I was content to be stuck in America. I mean – I was literally trapped in the United States. See, I was originally born in the Philippines and then moved to the US when I was three. I never did get around to applying for US citizenship, and my Filipino passport expired. So it was either become a US citizen – or try to get a new Filipino passport. Since I apparently detest paperwork and government processes, I decided that hey, I’ll do nothing and just hangout in the US forever. It’s a big country – why leave.

(Sorry – I learned how to use the stabilizer about halfway through.)

Yeah.

Enter Leah. On our very first date she let me know – yes, let me know – that she was planning on moving to Nepal in six months. I wasn’t in the long term plan and at the time, that was alright with both of us. Fortunately, I’m awesome (ha!) and Leah decided to put off Nepal for a few years.

Since then, she graduated with her Master’s in Social Work, I finally got a Bachelor’s in business finance, she got hired at CARE, and now I’m a photographer. I’ll save you some of the nostalgia trip of the past year and try to get to the point (because if you’ve followed our blog for even just a few months, you’ll know that I like the story too much and I keep repeating it.) Still.

We’ve traveled more in the past year across the US than I did in the 30 years before then. This next year we’re flying from Maine, to Florida, to Michigan, over to California and a lot of spots in between. Even if I’m going to the middle of nowhere Missouri, or Alabama – I get excited for the trip. Leah left for Delhi, India last Saturday and I flew out of Atlanta on Monday. With a stop over in Doha, Qatar (8 hours) – and then finally landing in Kathmandu – this is the first time I’ve been so far away – alone.

It’s not that I’m sad and pathetic (well sometimes I am!) – it’s that I know this portion of the trip would be even more fun if I had friends (and Leah!)with me. In case you haven’t noticed – I surround myself with people. Aside from all of the marketing/business and logistical reasons for having our Interns – when it comes down to it, it’s really about me wanting to work and hangout with people that I… want to work and hangout with. I need partners in crime – because with them I’m motivated to do more… um, crime? Well, you know what I mean.

This trip so far? I flew from Atlanta to Washington D.C. to Doha, Qatar, and then Kathmandu, Nepal. Not including the 8 hour layover in Doha – something like 26 hours in the air. The thing with traveling – is that to get the most out of it, you really have to start talking to strangers. This is something that we as Americans rarely do when we’re traveling within our own country, nevermind when we go abroad (the relatively few Americans that do.) On past trips I’ve had it easy because Leah’s kind of magical in that area. She’s not afraid to attempt the language – and to keep attempting it. Of course – Leah trying the language is cute – me trying the language, is eh – let’s just say it isn’t the same as when Leah tries. But I’ve done my best so far and I’m taking photos and videos – because I need proof that I was social!

So. Kathmandu, Nepal. Yeah. It’s great here – and I’ll admit that while it’s tempting to only go for the poster, frame-worthy shots, but there is more here than just monks, and really old people with deep canyon wrinkles on their faces. Walking around – it’s a little overwhelming and while you can easily walk away with a hundred photos of something interesting – but nothing new. So I’m figuring it out and I have some ideas. Because sure, I can come back with a hard drive full of the same shots everyone else has made – or I can risk coming back without anything impressive because I tried for something new. Like we tell our Interns – aim for something different, even if you miss. (Alright we don’t really tell them that – but it sounds nicer than ‘you better get THE SHOT or else you’re cut.’)

See you tomorrow.

Nepal. Kathmandu. Travel. Photos. Photography. LeahAndMark.com

Montreal

Montréal.  We loved it.  The diversity, the bi-lingualism, the buildings, the restaurants, the awesome people we met. This trip was different from most trips for us – since we both ‘worked’ the entire time we were there.

We did eventually get around to seeing some sights on the last day… (this video isn’t really 7 minutes long…)

You can walk and bike and take the metro everywhere.  You can even walk underground, through the maze of shops and pathways.  Montréal is every bit as diverse as NYC.  But the people are friendlier.  We had so many conversations with so many strangers – people we met on the street, on the metro, in a store.  We met a fantastic group of photographers.  We had dinner with an awesome CARE colleague.

We tried poutine, which is actually quite tasty.  We had Tibetan food.  Greek food.  French food.  Chinese food.  Locally-brewed beer.  Pie!  Bagels!  Ohhh, so much great food.

This was our first trip out of the country as ‘photographers’. Our main goal was to make photos that were less tourist-y and more… something else. We were practicing for our trip next month to India & Nepal. The idea isn’t to photograph things or even people necessarily… it’s more about being able to photograph what you see. We wanted a more 1st person perspective to the photos rather than a regular ‘tourist-photo’ perspective. Of course we know that we tend to visit less of the tourist spots and more of… wherever the people live and hangout.

We took pictures.  We learned.  We taught.  Nous avons parlé français.

Thanks for an incredible time, Montréal.

Montreal. Travel. Photography. Photos. Canada. LeahAndMark.com

Montreal Lighting Workshop

Last Saturday we held a lighting 101 workshop in Montreal. CANADA! (Hey – this is all still kind of exciting for us since remember, we’ve only been shooting for about a year.) Now – if you ask most photography instructors, they rarely ever get to take any photos during class – because they’re running around teaching, checking shots, giving tips, moving lights – everything except shooting. So I made it a point to take a little bit of video (even if it IS from my phone and uploaded immediately using the qik.com app so I could post it to facebook/twitter asap. (ha – you can hear them all speaking French!)

We had about 15 photographers from all over Montreal attend the workshop. There were many, many different levels of photography experience – and about half of them were ‘working’ professional photographers. After we all got our name tags and introduced ourselves to the group – I went through the basic gear components, basic concepts (shutter speed controls ambient light, f/stops control flash) – and then we started shooting. Because even though I can do a text book job of covering the technical aspects, the real benefit of a workshop with us is that you actually start shooting, but even more importantly, you can experiment.

I went through a few different setups, showing how changing shutter speed or aperture (f/stops) can affect the photo – all without ever touching the power levels on my flash.

Along with showing everyone different looks as I took the photos for demonstration – there were a few shots that I ‘setup’, and then had each photographer make roughly the same photo with the same settings. You do this so that they have undeniable proof that with a little practice – they can make the exact same type of photos with the camera they own right now. Then we had them go back and experiment some more with different models in different conditions.

Of course I was running around answering any questions.

In case you haven’t noticed – we’re a little selective with who we want to work with. Whether it’s clients, or Interns, or even people that attend our workshops. With so many competitive photographers out there – we choose to work with photographers who understand that we’re all still learning – and just because you can take good photos it doesn’t mean that you need be mean to other photographers who are just beginning. In the same way that we look for ‘friendly’ people when selecting our Interns – we want the same type of photographers attending our workshops – and everyone in this group was quite awesome.

I’ll update this with links to photos taken by the attendees – but here’s one for now – a gallery by TOM!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/faintscrawl/sets/72157625332743760/with/5155234920/

(Esther!) http://blog.esthergibbons.com/2010/11/09/workshop-with-leahandmark/

We had a really great time in Montreal – and we even had dinner with a group of the attendees afterwards.

We have a lot going on this week – including  a day trip (flight) up to Philadelphia for a family portrait on Wednesday.

On Thursday I’ll be speaking on a Panel about using Social Media for better collaboration over at my Studio Space at Renew Social Ventures. It’s from 2-4pm THIS Thursday. I hope you can make it. CLICK HERE for more information.

Then on Thursday evening we’ll be holding our Lighting 101 workshop that we hold specifically for our Interns. We actually have two more workshops that we give – an editing overview and our big one, the Photography Business Marketing workshop. Although we’ve begun holding lighting workshops to the public – the photography marketing workshop will always be only for our Interns. Hey – there’s gotta be some kind of benefit for being our Interns right? Especially since some of them move here from other states for the three month period.

See you tomorrow.

Photography. Lighting. Workshop. Off. Camera. Flash. Montreal. Atlanta.