Don MacDonell

A Trip to Biei, Hokkaido with Photographer Courtney Esson

A Trip to Biei, Hokkaido with Photographer Courtney Esson

Biei, Hokkaido yellow house landscape photograph by Courtney Esson
© Courtney Esson 2019

Courtney takes us with her on her trip to Biei, Hokkaido: ”The small town of Biei in Japan’s most Northern main Island, Hokkaido, is filled with picturesque landscapes merely waiting to be captured and explored. It’s winding countryside lanes lie between endless rolling fields where the trees are famous for creating simple compositions. This desolate and timeless canvas is heaven for minimalist winter photography.” (more…)

Bull Jumping – Becoming a Man in the Hamar Tribe of Omo Valley

Bull Jumping – Becoming a Man in the Hamar Tribe of Omo Valley

Bull jumping, becoming a man of the Hamar Tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia by Giovanni Mori
© Giovanni Mori 2019

Giovanni tells us of the bull jumping ceremony of the Hamar Tribe: “If you are a boy and if you were born in the Omo Valley area of Ethiopia and if you belong to the Hamer tribe, well, one day, you will be asked to become a man. That day you will have to run on the backs of the bulls, showing to all the people of your family and tribe your strength.(more…)

Mount Fuji from Fujigoko, the Fuji Five Lakes

Mount Fuji from Fujigoko, the Fuji Five Lakes

Mount Fuji from Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan's Fuji Five Lakes
© Courtney Esson 2019

Courtney Esson: ”Mount Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, dominates the sky at Fujigoko. My gaze couldn’t stop searching for it, as I explored the Northern foot of the hill, its small towns, forests, and lakes. Fuji’s beautifully symmetrical ridge lines lead up to the snow-capped peak, as clear as day on a sunny Winter morning. Strong icy winds rendered my travel-sized tripod useless as I searched for compelling compositions. It drives an array of weather through the countryside, drawn like a magnet to the summit of the mountain. Winter at Fujigoko sees unexpected frequently changing elements. I watched in wonder as, within minutes, bright blue skies became dark, swirling storm clouds engulfing the volcano. My frozen fingers hurriedly worked to accommodate the sudden decrease in light with more prolonged exposure, presuming that once Mount Fuji had completely concealed it was unlikely to reappear again. (more…)

A trip through Kericho, Kenya’s Tea Plantations

A Trip Through Kericho, Kenya’s Tea Plantations

Tea Plantations of Kericho Kenyaby Juan Alberto Casado
© Juan Alberto Casado 2019

Juan explains about passing through Kericho, Kenya’s tea plantations: “I was traveling by “matatu”, the crowded vans that work as public transportation in Kenya, when we crossed some beautiful tea fields on our way to Kericho, in Central Kenya. It looked like a perfect light-green sea, and I decided that I would manage to return to that exact spot the next day in the morning. I did not know whether I would be able to find workers there, though.”

“As I had planned, the next day I looked for a “boda-boda” (moto-taxi) to take me along the road back to the fields. When we arrived, I was lucky enough to find a dozen of workers picking the leaves at that time of the day. I got into the field along narrow alleys among the bushes and took a few shots from afar. Then, somebody started yelling at me from some distance: “no photos! no photos! did you ask for permission?”. “No, I don’t”, I answered quietly, smiling at him. He was the foreman and he had his orders: no photos should be taken. At that moment the very owner arrived (lucky me that he was there). I explained to him what I was doing with my photography, taking out my tablet and showing him photos I had taken all around the world. After a few minutes watching my photos and listening to my stories, he agreed that I could take more photos in his field, and so did I.”

Tea Plantation Workers in Kericho, Kenya Photography by Juan Alberto Casado
© Juan Alberto Casado 2019

“Those were really hard workers, no doubt. I didn’t even know how they could walk among the thick tea plants, which were next to each other. They had to pick up something like 25 kilos of leaves during the whole day, under the sun or the rain, depending on the time of the year, to get up to $3 USD per day. Surprisingly, it is considered a normal and decent salary in that area of the planet. The tea, of great quality, was largely exported. Sun was hidden behind some clouds, diffusing the light enough to avoid strong shadows at an hour of the morning, around 10, when the sun in Africa already punishes without remorse. I raised my camera several times and some of the workers sincerely smiled at me, even stopping their duty for a few seconds. I left the place feeling strong admiration for them.”

Kampong Phluk, ‘floating’ village

Kampong Phluk ‘floating’ village.

A Khmer women of Kampong Phluk village sailing with her young daughter, Cambodia by Courtney Esson
© Courtney Esson 2019

Courtney Esson shares her photographs and reflection on the lives of the people of Kampong Phluk, ‘the floating village’, Cambodia.”To create a connection to the lifestyle of local people, I prefer to travel out of the cities and into rural towns to get a taste of local flavor. In the village of Kampong Phluk, locals live in wooden houses built on high stilts along the rivers. Locals learn to operate colorful boats at a young age to adapt to living on floodplains. Taking a boat through the village offers an insight into the hardships and adversity locals face daily.” (more…)

Sea Women of Jeju Island, South Korea

Sea Women of Jeju Island, South Korea

Sea Women of Jeju Island as told by Shanae Ennis-Melhado
© Shanae Ennis-Melhado 2019

Shanae explains about her brief encounter with the Sea women of Jeju: “I couldn’t help but gaze in awe as I snapped shots of the Haenyeo (Jeju women divers) entering the ocean to harvest their food. This wasn’t the first time that day I had marveled at these women. Prior to their descent, I had watched the women divers sway back and forth with their nets and floats, mimicking the motion of a rocking boat as they sang their jovial labor song, “Ieodo-sana”. It was almost impossible for me to capture this moment on camera, as their contagious movements and merry voices bewitched me. After the group had finished their song, I locked eyes with one of the women and we smiled at each other. The music had briefly connected us, even though we didn’t speak the same language.

Khmer Monks in Phnom Kulen National Park

Khmer Monks in Phnom Kulen National Park

Phnom Kulen National Park is inhabited by the Khmer Monks, Courtney Esson a British photographer captures their daily lives in the mountain.
© Courtney Esson 2019
A young Khmer Monk cools off in a waterfall in Phnom Kulen National Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia. The moment is captured by British Photographer, Courtney Esson.
© Courtney Esson 2019

Courtney Esson tells us about her travels and observation of the Khmer Monks living in Phnom Kulen National Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia:

“It’s no surprise that some of my most influential images of South East Asia come from the people of Cambodia, a culture of welcoming, open, and humble people. Khmer monks occupy their own social class and are highly respected. They live privately, studying, working, and housing together in pagodas and abide by a monastic way of life. Brightly clad in orange robes, they create a fascinating subject, unmistakable among the country’s’ religious monuments. Within the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen they join the multitude of tourists and locals come to enjoy nature, but in a secluded corner by a waterfall. The monks cool off in the water away from tourists, social engagement with women, something that requires careful attention, and locals maintain their highly regarded views.

Here I felt as though I had been allowed to witness something wonderfully intimate. The moments of genuine, pure emotion I was able to capture reflected my thoughts of the Khmer people. Despite a history of hardship, there was always an environment of sincerity and warmth that came to define my experience and make Cambodia one of my favorite travel destinations. These images were not taken to shock or impress but reflect an authentic, candid moment of identified and genuine emotion.” (more…)

Gyeongbokgung Front Gate

Gyeongbokgung’s Front Gate

Night at Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea
© Don MacDonell 2019

Coming to South Korea is an amazing adventure. One of the biggest sites in Seoul is the first palace, built at the start of the Joseon dynasty. It’s one of my favorite places to go and photograph. Relax and explore, look for something interesting to shoot. When the sun sets the palace gates are lit up beautifully. Using slow shutter speed and waiting for the right moment, I photographed the gate with a middle-aged woman quickly passing by to escape the cold winter air. (more…)

An Evening in Osaka City

An Evening in Osaka City

High Contrast Black and White Osaka, Japan
© Don MacDonell 2019

We arrived in Japan at Osaka airport
and quickly departed for the city
first to check out a few sights
before grabbing a bite
at that popular Kyukatsu place.
With a bit of time to spare
we took a little look around some of the
small back streets.
The signs,
the Japanese script,
the bright lights
and contrast
presented to us
the opportunity to take
my favorite type of photograph.
The high contrast,
black and white photographs.
Setting up a tripod on the spot,
adjusting the settings,
and getting that beautiful
slow motion shot
of the locals strolling by.
Though Satisfied with some
gorgeous photographs,
I eagerly look forward to returning to explore further
the beauty of Osaka City. (more…)