Garissa, North Eastern Kenya

•July 26, 2010 • 2 Comments

Part two of my NGO assignment with Eductaion Development Center is to document thier G-Youth program in Garissa, north eastern Kenya.

Student

The Garissa Youth Project (G-Youth) is designed to empower youth to make sound career and life decisions as they transition from high-school to the next phase of their lives.

EDC Program office, Garissa

The project offers youth interventions that help them to: build skills, facilitate appropriate career choices, provide employment and/or income generating information, bridge technical and university education opportunities and provide a fun and safe space for youth to socialize. Through the addition of a new component for the project: Youth Action, G-Youth will focus on building the capacity of local youth organizations and networks to increase youth participation and planning in program activities meant to help youth.

G-Youth Soccer education through sports

The G-Youth Project’s Four Major Components:

1. Establishment of a G-Youth Career Resource Center which will provide the project’s target youth population with structured career development information, skills, and opportunities to get jobs, start their own businesses or transition into higher education.

Fatima in her beauty salon

2. Strengthening and expanding programs at the North East Province Technical Training Institute (NEP TTI), a major technical/vocational training center in Garissa that is currently underutilized.

upgrading libraries / adding books

3. Provision of sub-grants to partner NGOs working to strengthen the livelihood and employment skills of Garissan youth.

card catalog

4. Youth Action – Garissa Youth Project (G-Youth) implements a new initiative; Youth Action, which engages youth leaders to solve problems unique to them. The goal of this new activity is to create mechanisms that enable the youth of Garissa become active participants in the design and implementation of programs and services that impact their lives and futures.

Career training class

From February 2009 to September 2010, the G-Youth Project will be implemented by Education Development Center (EDC) in partnership with local NGOs, higher education institutions, private sector companies and members of civil society.

career training

Career training class

The Out-of-School Youth (OSY) program has been established to prepare out-of-school Garissan youth for the workforce.  The program targets 800 youth ages 16 – 30 who have graduated from high school and are not working or pursuing higher education, or who have dropped out of 3rd or 4th forms. Five groups of 150 youth participants will participate in the program over the life of the project.  The OSY program focuses on work preparedness and entrepreneurship.  Each group will progress through three phases of the program – 1. Work Readiness Core Training, 2. Entrepreneurship Training, and 3. Applied Work Experiences.

The work readiness training is the first of three phases in the OSY program. It is designed to give youth the tools they need to achieve their career goals.  Youth undergo a six week training on three modules covering:
Personal Leadership Development
Career Planning
Skills for Work Success

Work internship

Participating youth take part in community service learning,which involves civic participation in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth Affairs.  Youth also participate in a weekly lecture series event where they learn about different career paths from a wide range of community members.
Phase 2: Entrepreneurship Skills Training
After the Work Readiness core training, participants undergo a training on entrepreneurship, based on the model developed by the Center for International Voluntary Services (CIVS).The entrepreneurship training focuses on practical skills needed to start a small business.

Work experience

Work Readiness Program

Are you currently not enrolled in secondary or higher education? Are you ready to build your personal leadership and you career? Are you ready to contribute your skills to the community? If yes, then you may be ready for G-Youth’s Work Readiness Program.
What is the Work Readiness Program?

The Work Readiness Program (WRP) is G-Youth’s primary activity for out-of-school youth.  The goal of the WRP is to build the confidence and skills of Garissan youth to set work and career goals and be proactive in pursuing those goals.  Simply put, the WRP seeks to shift the mindset and behavior of youth from a mindset of “I can’t” to “I can” and give youth the skills to be successful in their career planning and job hunting/creation efforts.
How does it Work?

The program comprises three phases over a period of approximately five months:

1. Career Development Training
2. Entrepreneurship Training
3. Practical Work Internships

invasive plant

Video showing environmental issues that EDC G-Youth Program is tackling.

The Career Development Training builds your personal leadership, career planning, and work skills.  It also requires that you give back to Garissa by volunteering in the community.  It includes a weekly Lecture Series to meet leaders from the community who will share advice and tips with you on different career choices. Entrepreneurship Training continues to build your leadership by asking you to creatively develop ideas into businesses in the formal and informal sectors. Practical Work Internships give you a chance to put your skills into practice and build your experience.

beauty salon

How Can the Work Readiness Program Benefit You?

What is provided?

* Participants receive all training at no cost.  Transportation to the training sites is provided.
* Please note that allowances of any kind are not provided.  G-youth invests its money into bringing you a dynamic training with certificate.

Who is Eligible to Participate?

* Out-of-School youth ages 16 to 30.
* Participants must not be engaged in regular employment or enrolled in school

Sudan assignment completed

•July 23, 2010 • 1 Comment

Today marked the end of the Sudan segment of my Eduction Development Center photo assignment. Tomorrow will be a  shoot of EDC’s Darfur Radio team in Nairobi, then it’s a five hour road trip to Garisssa in eastern Keyna to shoot a EDC’s G-Youth program.

Radio transmitting tower protected by razor wire

Yesterday and today was spent photographing the activities and facilities of Sudan Radio Service.  Sudan Radio Service (SRS) is Sudan’s first independent broadcast provider of news and information. SRS works in English, Arabic, and 8 Sudanese languages, and focuses exclusively on issues and events in Sudan, making it the favorite radio station of many Sudanese around the world.

Construction supervisor overseeing work

All SRS programming is produced by an all-Sudanese staff of radio professionals working  in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as the bureau in Juba (photos you see here) and Khartoum. SRS also gathers news with help from Sudanese correspondents across Sudan. SRS will relocate entirely to Sudan once conditions allow and the new facility is completed (see photos of the construction site)

Overview of construction site

SRS’ first broadcast was made on 30 July 2003. Initial broadcasts were only an hour long and consisted of brief news summaries, music, and introductory messages. Today, SRS is on the air 6 hours per day and programs include detailed news and informational content in the areas of current events, civic education, health, agriculture and animal husbandry, business and economic issues, and much more.

Radio reporter editing an audio interview

SRS is a project of Education Development Center, an international NGO, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

EDC Team, Juba, Sudan

EDC Sudan Day 3

•July 22, 2010 • 6 Comments

I will be adding some text tonight if possible, but internet is so slow and inconsistent that I can guarantee anything…I’ just happy to be able to post a few images for the time being.

Distracted

Thinking

Sudanese student

Class during radio based lesson

Peering out from the classroom

Moses, the school administrator

Three children sharing a desk

Here’s some raw, unedited video

Sudan Assignment Continues: EDC SSIRI project

•July 20, 2010 • 5 Comments

I’ve spent the day documenting Education Development Center’s SSIRI  (Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction). The project is a program of the Southern Sudan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST). It is funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered by Education Development Center (EDC). Four SSIRI activities provide learning opportunities for children, adults, and teachers in Southern Sudan.

Working in place like Sudan, or just about anywhere that I work, means being flexible. Today we had itinerary that was completely planned out from 830 in the morning until 7 PM, but due to some torrential rain in the early morning hours, our schedule was doomed from the start. In Juba where most roads are unpaved and unmaintained, a rain storm means the cancellation of many normal activities for business people and students. This morning we were to meet the minister of education. Using Education Development Center’s Toyota land cruiser, we were able to get to the minister’s office on time, but were informed that he was still trying to get into the office. After waiting for some time we decided to proceed with the rest of our schedule. We visited a school where the S. S.I R. I program was in effect. The photos that you see here are images of the classrooms will children during a radio lesson.

Here is some more information about EDC’s radio project:

THE LEARNING VILLAGE: IRI programs based on the Southern Sudanese Primary School Syllabus. The lessons are designed to complement classroom instruction in local language literacy, English language, mathematics, and life skills for Grades 1-4.

RABEA: Radio Based Education for All provides an excellent opportunity for Sudanese to learn or strengthen their English language skills.

PROFESSIONAL STUDIES FOR TEACHERS: A non-traditional distance learning course to improve the teaching practice in Southern Sudan. The programs are based on the MoEST in-service teacher education program.

ALTERNATIVE LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES: Some classes are unable to use the radio lessons because of broadcast schedule times. SSIRI provides alternative digital devices for these groups.

Towards the end of the day today, I had a chance to meet with the local communications people of the Sudan office of EDC.  I was asked to give some advice to their staff about picture taking. It was an opportunity for me to explain a little bit about how I go about making the images that you see here.

During the discussion, I pointed out that the images needed to be strong in terms of subject matter, often requiring  that the camera be very close to the subject in order to fill the frame.

I also explained the use of leading lines to draw a viewer’s attention to a particularly important part of the photograph. For example in the image above and left, I used the lead lines of the window frame to draw attention to the radio. that is used to listen to the broadcasted  lesson.

I explained about the use of natural light rather than flash because of the beautiful quality and softness of natural light.

Here in Sudan and in many of the countries I work,  I am photographing dark-complected people in a hot & humid environment.  When photographing people who are sweating, the use of flash creates specular highlights on the wet skin of a person’s face.That’s why magazine models are often “powered” repeatedly, it eliminates the distracting reflections.

The image below was taken in the shade, but adjacent to strong, bounced sunlight. I tried to balance the image by placing the subject to the left while allowing the empty classroom to provide a bit of context and interest on the right side of the frame.

It’s only 10 PM here in Sudan, but it has been a long hot day. I had just read through what I have written so far and I can see that it’s pretty rough, but I’m too tired to fix it so I’m off to get some sleep. One of these days when I’m on a fast Internet connection, I’m going to try to figure out how to get the text wrap to work properly, and also figure out a format that allows me to display larger images. But at this moment I’m just happy to slap something up here for all of you to see. It seems that every time I finish a paragraph or upload an image the Internet connection fails and I have to begin all again. So again I’m off to bed thanks for following the blog and I will try and update with more images of information tomorrow.

Finally here’s a bit of raw, unedited video footage of the radio lesson…

Assignment: Education Development Center, Juba, Sudan

•July 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

Arriving in southern Sudan was a bit of a surprise. Having worked in Sudan before, I was expecting a dry landscape, but what greeted me on arrival in Juba, was a sea of green!

A bit of background about Sudan. Sudan gained independence from the UK in 1956. After independence, Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars during most of the remainder of the 20th century. The first civil war ended in 1972 broke out again in 1983. The second war and famine resulted in more than 4 million people displaced and according to estimates, more than 2 million deaths over a period of two decades. Peace talks gained momentum in 2002 and 2004 with the signing of several accords. The final north-south Sudan comprehensive peace agreement signed in January 2005 granted the southern rebels autonomy for six years. After which, a referendum for independence is scheduled to be held. A separate conflict also broke out in the western region of Darfur in 2003, which has displaced nearly 2,000,000 people and caused an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. The UN took command of Darfur peacekeeping operation from the African Union on 31 December 2007. As of early 2009 peacekeeping troops were struggling to stabilize the situation. Sudan also has faced large refugee influx is from neighboring countries primarily Ethiopia and Chad.

I’m here to document the Eduction Development Center’s Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction (SSIRI) program. SSIRI designs, develops, and broadcasts cost-effective instructional programmes to provide learning opportunities for children, adults, and teachers in southern Sudan. SSIRI is an integral part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The core programmes consist of daily half-hour broadcasts for children in primary school for grades 1-4. In addition, there is also a series for teaching English to youth and adults from beginner to advanced levels. Also, there is a series on classroom management to strengthen teacher skills. Finally, SSIRI supports computer centres with internet access at teacher training institutes and a secondary school. SSIRI was created by the Education Development Center (EDC) International Development Division (IDD) with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The SSIRI programme for primary schools teaches English literacy, indigenous language literacy, mathematics, and life skills such as health topics, peace education, and mine awareness. It aims to complement the teacher’s work in the classroom. The project staff says that the programme functions like another, skilled teacher in the room. It has the dual goal of promoting new teaching strategies for the teacher, while also leading the children in exercises that support active learning, reinforce key concepts, and make learning fun.

The lessons use a combination of games, songs, and stories to introduce educational content. In the programmes, a radio teacher named “Madame Rhoda” instructs the classroom teacher to invite participation by having students answer questions aloud and write on the chalkboard or, in lieu of a chalkboard, in the dirt. A cast of five additional radio characters leads other exercises where students sing songs and respond aloud to questions or statements. The broadcasts also instruct teachers to include girls and boys in the activities equally, which, according to the organisers, is a significant departure from traditional classroom practice.

For the participating schools and adult learning centres, the project provides radio broadcasts, solar-powered and wind-up radios, teachers’ guides, and initial training for teachers. In addition, the project has a cadre of outreach coordinators who train teachers on how best to use and care for the radios and to integrate the programmes into the school day. The project has also developed basic monitoring and evaluation tools to track the impact of the programmes, such as attendance sheets, classroom observation forms, and pre- and post-tests for pupils.

The programmes are broadcast on FM stations throughout Southern Sudan. In addition, for those located in areas that cannot receive the radio broadcasts, EDC and the Ministry are delivering the programmes using digital devices ranging from MP3 players to boom boxes using solar panels or hand-cranking devices to recharge batteries. As of February 2010, over 70,000 children receive the programmes in six states in southern Sudan as well as Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. In addition, over 300,000 youth and adults receive the English and primary school programmes in their homes.

The program aims to reach schools, often with no classrooms or desks, and to support the great majority of teachers who are not trained. According to the organisers, “In some parts of southern Sudan, school consists of one teacher, 80 students, and the shade provided by some trees. In others, children gather for school in a small hut or ‘tukul’ made from mud bricks and thatch, with no electricity or running water. Teachers might have chalk and a chalkboard, but books, paper, and pencils are rare.”

Here’s some raw, unedited video

Kibera Slum, Nairobi, Kenya

•July 18, 2010 • 5 Comments

I’m here in Nairobi with a free day before heading out to Juba Sudan, the back here to Garissa Kenya, to shoot an assignment for Education Development Center (EDC), so today I spent the day photographing Kabira slum. Kibera is a slum (sorry there is no euphemism for it) in Nairobi, Kenya. Kibira is roughtly  the same size as New York City’s Central Park, about 1.5 square miles. At over 1 million people, the population density is in Kibira 30 times that of New York City, and Kibera does not have multi-level housing. Most people living in Kibera have little or no access to basic necessities, such as electricity, clean water, toilet facility and sewage disposal. The combination of poor nutrition and lack of sanitation accounts for many illnesses and deaths.  According to authorities, there are over 50,000 AIDS orphans surviving in Kibera, often cared for by grandparents, over crowded orphanages, or completely unattended. For these and all children in Kibera, schooling is rare and dependent on the ebb and flow of family finances, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.  The slum originated in 1920 as a soldiers’ settlement. The British colonial government of the time allowed them to squat on a hillside outside Nairobi. After Kenyan independence in 1963, however, various forms of housing were made illegal by the government, rendering Kibera unauthorized on the basis of land tenure.  Diseases such as malaria, cholera, and typhoid afflict large proportions of Kibera residents. These diseases are caused by a lack of sanitation facilities in the slum, and often  in the case of communicable disease, sickness is spread across large portions of the populace.  Sanitation in Kibera is non existent, open sewers carrying fetid water are everywhere. Cholera and Typhoid cases in Kibera are a direct result of the lack of proper sewage control and disposal. Both Cholera and Typhoid are very debhilitating, and can last for weeks at a time, and without treatment  can cause death. As residents of Kibera live in structures without any plumbing facilities, clean water must be accessed from pre-filled water tanks (AKA water points), which are often controlled by landlords, and expensive for residents to use.  Since clean water is difficult to obtain, residents are often unable to wash their hands before preparing food or doing other things that can cause diseases to enter their bodies.  Malaria is a severe problem in Kibera, and is particularly damaging to the community because it often causes a person to be so sick that they are unable to work, which may precipitate the loss of a job or business revenue that is vital to their family’s survival.  Malaria is also especially deadly in children and the elderly. The Malaria parasite is transmitted from person to person through the bite of female mosquitos, which requires blood to nurture her eggs.  There are at least 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally, resulting in more than a million deaths. Around 90% of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children.  Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to malaria, which is a major cause of prenatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anemia
One of the primary factors in Malaria spread in Kibera is ineffective wastewater drainages that run thru the slum.  In many parts of Kibera, drainages are simply channels dug in the dirt, and they quickly become muddy and clogged with waste.  Residents use thedrainages to remove waste water and solids from their household area.  As the drainages are simply made of dirt they do not flow very effectively; pools of water and waste form in these channels once they are clogged, and this is where mosquitoes lay their eggs. As drainages collect waste, they also become breeding grounds for cholera and typhoid, as well as other diseases, and since these drainages are unprotected from human contact, transmission can occur very easily, especially in children who play nearby. (above text courtesy of Kibera Slum Foundation)During my time in Kibera, I met a elderly woman who was living alone. Her name is Helen but  everyone just calls her “grammy”.  She’s not sur of her age but thinks she’s about 80. Helen told me that a boy in the local community brings her food and firewood.  Her face was in total darkness, but her hands were so expressive that I photographed them instead of asking here to move forward  into the light, so that I could see her face.

Another woman, I met, named Wanza lost both hands in a burn accident.  Now she produces bead jewelry and sells it. Here you can see her manipulating the small beads with her damaged hands. An NGO has been helping her, and now she even trains other disabled people in here community in the art of bead making. It’s not much, but sales of the beads help her, and those that she trains, to earn a bit of money. After photographing her, she insisted on giving me a small neclace as a gift. Kibera and its residents lack many things, but generosity, is apparently not one of them.

James, the taxi driver took me to an overlook point sot that I could photograph Kabira’s expansive footprint on the hills below. This picture represents only a portion of the slum, which actually stretches quite a distance from right to left. Be sure to follow along as I blog about EDC’s SRS (Sudan Radio Service) program in Juba, then about EDC’s G-youth Program in Garissa, Kenya.

Here’s some raw, unedited video footage shot with my D3s showing Kibera

Kibera Slum Nairobi Kenya

Freedom From Hunger Assignment Continues

•July 11, 2010 • 6 Comments

After returning to Bamako, we continued to document Freedom From Hunger programs; this time visiting villages on the outskirts of Bamako city that have started to implement the Savings For Change program. Additionally we visited an AIM Youth (Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth) program in the city. While I’m blogging the trip from a photographer’s  perspective, Tyler Rattray is doing an excellent,l “behind the scenes” story for Freedom From Hunger’s Facebook page. Check it out by clicking here.

preparing a simple meal

Freedom from Hunger has partnered with Oxfam America to develop and implement in Mali a savings-led microfinance delivery model called Saving for Change, whereby groups of women mobilize their savings and make loans to each other. This approach enables outreach into rural areas where financial institutions have little or no penetration, and also lends itself to large-scale replication at relatively low cost. Equipped with tested materials and experience in Mali, Freedom from Hunger has begun training local organizations in Burkina Faso and Sénégal on the Saving for Change approach, in keeping with our commitment to expand microfinance services to the very poor throughout West Africa. The largest program is in Mali, under a consortium comprised of Oxfam America, Freedom from Hunger, and Stromme Foundation.

Mali cash and coins

Saving for Change is a methodology for self-managed saving and lending groups integrated with simple,
relevant, high-impact training in health, business and money management. Saving for Change brings basic
financial services to areas that are typically beyond the reach of microfinance institutions and, in doing so,
creates sustainable, cohesive groups that tackle social issues facing their members and their communities.
Self-selecting groups of approximately 20 women come together and, over several weeks, make decisions
about the management of their savings groups, with guidance from a trained field agent. The members
elect a management committee and make decisions within a framework provided by the program,
including their group name, social objective, savings amount, lending policies, cycle length, fines for
infractions, etc.

group meeting

The field agent also trains the group on how to manage their meetings. Members save a set amount at every meeting, and periodically borrow from their pooled savings to meet their investment or consumption needs. Loans are repaid with interest, allowing the group fund to grow more quickly. Funds are only accessed during meetings in the presence of all members, and are kept in a locked cashbox between meetings. Savings meetings can last as little as 15 minutes, while saving and lending meetings can last up to an hour. Annually, members divide the group fund in proportion to their savings contribution, take stock of their achievements, and decide what changes to make as they begin a new cycle.
In order for groups to manage meetings autonomously, without field agent oversight, the group record keeping system for Saving for Change is adapted to the literacy and numeracy level of group members. In West Africa, an entirely memory-based system allows all members to transparently validate transactions.

Village Chief

It is customary to meet with the village chief prior to getting started.

Group meetings also allow for discussion of group and community issues, and for education sessions. The field agent facilitates a 30-minute learning session during some group meetings, using the same skills necessary for establishing the members’ self-management of their group. For this reason, the preparation of the field agent to provide education only requires additional training on the content of the sessions. The content for these learning sessions is available from Freedom from Hunger, which eliminates the need for institutions to invest in costly development of their own materials. The same field agent who monitors the group’s activities can deliver learning sessions, keeping marginal costs low, or a dedicated staff may do so, allowing for greater specialization but increasing delivery costs.

Girl in kitchen

In West Africa, program growth is accelerated by the initiative of replicators—group members who in turn
form other savings groups in their communities. With special training and support provided by field agents,
replicators greatly expand the number of Saving for Change groups at comparable quality. Saving for
Change is being implemented by a wide range of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with experience
in community development, health, literacy or agriculture can help the populations they serve access basic
saving and lending services, without needing the systems and processes of financial service institutions.

Doorway of a village home

AIM Youth (Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth)
Freedom from Hunger’s newest innovation, AIM Youth, is a three-year initiative, youth-focused microfinance and financial education program. In collaboration with carefully selected partners in Mali and Ecuador, Freedom from Hunger will develop appropriate and comprehensive youth-focused financial services and education innovations, research their impact on participants, and document best practices to be shared with the microfinance industry and youth focused organizations around the world.

youth group meeting

With this project, Freedom from Hunger and its partners propose to reach 37,000 young people (22,000 in Mali and 15,000 in Ecuador) with integrated services during the life of the project and many more in the years beyond. Today there are more young people than ever in the challenging transition from childhood to adulthood. For youth living in poverty, a complex developmental stage is further complicated with increasing levels of household financial responsibility in tension with limited access to resources and opportunities. This combination of factors can severely inhibit the ability of youth to break the vicious cycle of transgenerational poverty. But when youth are presented with knowledge, skills, encouragement and resources to make changes in their lives, their energy and enthusiasm can lead to major positive outcomes that can extend to their future lives and families.

Youth group members leaving the meeting

For this reason, Freedom from Hunger proposes to explore and test an innovative approach for microfinance institutions (MFIs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide value-added microfinance services to very poor youth. The approach will be based on the integration of financial services with youth learner-centered financial education. The combination of these services will guide and encourage youth in establishing and achieving financial goals, which will lead to increased options for the future. For this approach to be effective, services must be appropriate to the lifecycle stage of the target population and sensitive to local customs and practices regarding adult-youth dynamics.

Back in Bamako

•July 8, 2010 • 10 Comments

We  have been out in Segou,  a rural town about three and a half hours from Bamako for the last two days shooting the meetings and activities of women involved in Freedom From Hunger’s savings programs.  My apologies for not being able to post earlier than this, but the small rural town of Segou lacks sufficient Internet connections make a blog post.

Below is  a video shot using my iPhone, during the drive to work this morning (don’t get too excited it’s a pretty bad video) but at least you can see a bit of the country.

The voice you’re hearing in the video, is Tyler, an intern working for FFH. He’s going to be helping FFH with some social marketing.
Now that the group is back in Bamako I am able to make some short posts, however it’s already 1:30 AM and I still have lots of editing to do so I am going to make this post another short one and just include a few images from the last days of work.

Also, check out this video, shot with my Nikon D3s in a small local market.

Mali has an ancient and proud cultural history, it also has historical significance to Freedom from Hunger. FFH’s very first efforts to implement its Credit with Education program were launched in Mali in 1989. Over time, Credit with Education was refined and transformed into a cost-effective partnership methodology that now serves women in five West African countries as well as nations in other parts of the world.

Today in Mali, Freedom from Hunger and its two credit union partners, Nyèsigiso and Kondo Jigima, serve two large, rural regions of the country. For our Malian partners, the greatest challenge has been to extend the reach of Credit with Education across vast distances to serve women living in communities that are as isolated as they are impoverished.

To date, Credit with Education programs in Mali have loaned over US $20 million to women in rural areas. Our new partner, Kondo Jigima, is expanding into even more remote regions, reaching from the city of Mopti toward the fabled Timbuktu. As in other countries, the Malian Credit with Education members–no matter how poor–are respected as entrepreneurs.

Loan repayment in Mali is virtually 100% and the interest on these loans supports the ongoing operational costs, helping the program to achieve sustainability. At weekly repayment meetings, field agents engage the women in “learning sessions” to introduce new ideas and recommended practices on the topics of health, nutrition, family planning and business management. Most of the women participating in these programs can neither read nor write, so these learning sessions are frequently the only education they have ever received.



link to another FFH video click  here

In Mali shooting for Freedom From Hunger

•July 6, 2010 • 2 Comments

Sorry folks I am swatting mosquitos and racing against a low battery warning on a very  slow internet connection in Segou, a rural village, 250 Km from Bamako. All I have time to do is offer up the one photo, I will try to post more images and an explanation of what I’m shooting tomorrow.  Meanwhile, let me tell you that Mali is awesome, and Freedom From Hunger’s programs are wonderful and inspiring! Check out www.FreedomFromHunger.org

Hitting the Road Again

•July 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’m leaving my home turf for a few assignments in Africa, the first is a shoot for Freedom From Hunger in Mali, then it’s off to Kenya and Sudan for Education Development Center. Given the opportunity, I’ll be blogging along the way. Please stay tuned for some posts. Gosh it seems like I rarely blog when I am in the studio, but while on the road, I get all motivated…go figure…
Happy 4th of July!

OK, for those of you who need a cure for insomnia, read on….exciting news (yeah right)…I have just arrived in Atlanta with time to kill, so I’ll put you to sleep with some blogging. I snapped a few iPhone photos as I was walking along.

I remember as a child, at Chicago Ohare airport, running up and down the concourses checking the change returns in pay phones for coins. In those days airports were no-frills kinda’ places. Not today; if there’s not a Starbucks, a TGI Fridays, some high end clothing stores, over priced cosmetics and such, then the place is likely to be torn down, or renovated!

I’ve got a few more hours here in Atlanta so maybe I’ll head over to the information booth and see what I can find.

The Asia Foundation Annual Report 2009

•June 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s always nice to see one’s work being used. Over the last year, I had the opportunity to shoot in several locations for the Asia Foundation. I’ve blogged about them before…..

Here are a few of the images that they used in their annual report.

SMALL ENTERPRISES ARE THE LIFEBLOOD

of Sri Lanka’s
economy, and an endless series of nettlesome, costly challenges
plague entrepreneurs. Permits, regulations, and transportation
challenges have long tied up time and assets, preventing regional
towns from flourishing. As the war drew to its violent conclusion
last year, we began empowering business owners to more deeply
unite and advocate for themselves, effectively removing, one by
one, barriers to growth. The Asia Foundation’s efforts have paid dividends. First,
we helped re-shape the way business owners and their local
officials communicate, supporting new, regular, constructive
dialogues where thorny infrastructure issues are now plainly
discussed—and solved. Second, for maximum impact, if an issue
now stalls with local or regional leaders, entrepreneurs can
escalate it to the national level. The Asia Foundation’s new, streamlined private/public
dialogue strategy is improving the local business environments
in Central, Southern, North Western, and Eastern
Provinces and typifies our commitment to a balanced, evenhanded
approach in post-war Sri Lanka. In the Eastern Province
of lagoon-rich Batticaloa, Mr. K.M. Jeyaram, a retired banker
and chief executive officer of the Batticaloa District Chamber
of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture, takes full advantage
of the new advocacy mechanism. “There were checkpoints,” he
says, pointing in the direction of Kallady, where fish and prawns
are driven out daily to Colombo. Delayed at time-consuming
police points, fish spoiled in trucks and small vehicles, financially
crippling fishing families, buyers, drivers, and urban

vendors. “But now they removed the check points,” he smiles“We are grateful. Now people can thier work done.”

LOCALIZED, FREQUENT, AND VIOLENT,
sub-national conflicts now persist in the Asia-Pacific.
Long-running, these conflicts are waged by disaffected
minorities or marginalized populations at
odds with the central government and politicalestablishment. Limitations on local identity and culture,
a lack of accounting for past abuses, and poor
access to justice and security spark bitter grievances
and campaigns for retribution.
To help break cycles of conflict, and assist fragile
states, the Asia Foundation last year developed a targeted
Conflict and Fragile Conditions program. On-the ground
Asia Foundation staff together with experts
across Asia support formal peace processes by working
with governments, the international community,
civil society, and conflict-affected communities
to address obstacles to peace, facilitate Track 2 dialogues,
and encourage key political reforms that will
make peace more likely. When there are formal
peace agreements in place, the Foundation works
with local organizations to overcome obstacles to
their full implementation. The program also seeks
to reduce community-level conflicts through mediation
and rapid response to impending crises.

In Mindanao, Philippines, where The Asia Foundation
has been selected to join the International Contact
Group to support the peace process between the
government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
based on our unparalleled access to all sides of the
conflict, disputes between local actors—clans, political
leaders, military units, police, insurgent groups,
and criminal networks—can quickly erupt and escalate.
Elections, in particular, can trigger senses of loss
of culture and identity and thus spark violence. Last
year, in the province Lanao del Sur, we assisted local
efforts to convene candidates and their supporters
to prevent violence and forge a covenant of peace.
“Historically, conflicts are just talked about here. It’s
only oral,” says Daisy Amaca, pictured, a program
officer at partner organization Integrated Development
Services who helped lead election-related
violence discussions in Mindanao. To ensure impact,
with religious leaders as witnesses, she also gained
promises from residents and activists to refrain from
fighting and bloodshed. “Instead, we’re teaching
[participants] how to visually map out and sketch
strategic solutions to conflicts, and we’re also empowering
more women in conflict resolution, peacebuilding,
and mitigating election violence during the
upcoming campaign in 2010.”

Apricorn Aegis Mini: the mini drive I trust for backing up my images

•June 16, 2010 • 2 Comments

For the last 5 years, while on assignment, I have been backing up my images onto a wonderful, little external hard drive made by Apricorn. The model I am using now is a 1.8 inch, USB powered external hard drive with an integrated USB cable, called the Aegis Mini.  It’s the most compact,  durable and easy to use mini hard drive available.

Take a look at just how compact the Aegis Mini is when it’s placed next to a Seagate 2.5″ drive, and even as compared to Apricorn’s  earlier version called the Easy Bus Mini.

One of the best things about the Aegis Mini, other than the diminutive size, is the USB cable. The unique, integrated cable means one less thing to carry around (unlike the Seagate).

To see my 2006 review of the Easy Bus Mini click here, and to see a review of the Aegis Mini that I did several years ago, click here.

Since the Aegis Mini is based on the 1.8 inch drive rather than the 2.5 inch drive, the Aegis Mini also drains less power from your laptop and it always works with just a single USB port.  Sometimes the 2.5 inch drives require being plugged into 2  USB ports simultaneously in order to draw enough current to spin the drive.

Additionally Apricorn has built in another important feature,  which is the 16 point omni-directional, shock mounting system.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I have dropped my Aegis Mini on several occasions, and I have yet to damage it! Other manufacturers just mount small drives into cases, without any shock mounting!

Near the end of  long assignments, I’m often very protective of the images that I have worked so hard to get, so I keep the Aegis Mini in my pocket 24/7. Seriously,  it’s so small that it will fit comfortably in your pocket. Try that with any 2.5 inch drive!

I’m happy to announce that Michelle, the marketing manager at Apricorn has put together a special price on the Aegis Mini USB 2.0 120 gig model, especially for followers of my blog! Our price of $99.00  is a full $30 below the special sale price advertised on Apricorn’s website (seen screenshot below).

So, if you’re interested in purchasing an Aegis Mini 120 gb drive, you’ll get it for just $99 versus the on-line sale price of $129.

Now, in order to get the special price, you’ll need to use coupon code “KARLJUN10” . At checkout $30 will be deducted from the $129 sales price.

Folks, I wouldn’t be recommending this product unless I believed in it.The Aegis Mini has served me well for many years and I plan on continuing to use it, until such time that flash memory based drives become more available and affordable.

Anyway, if you need a fantastic little drive, you should consider purchasing an Aegis Mini now, while we have this great offer. Oh, and one more thing;  feel free to spread the word about this offer to friends and family. Again that coupon code is  “KARLJUN10″

Happy shooting,

Karl

P.S. if you’re wondering about the photograph of the girl I used as the cover image for this post, it was shot in Ghana. The girl’s father is from Sudan and her mother is from Ghana, which probably accounts for her curly hair and her beautiful almond shaped eyes.

EDC Update Magazine Wins Beacon Award

•June 9, 2010 • 7 Comments

Congratulations to Daphne Northrop and here communications team!

EDC Update, the quarterly print magazine of Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), one of my oldest and largest NGO clients, has received the prestigious Beacon Award for Excellence in Education Marketing. This top prize is bestowed annually by the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP), a national association whose members include publishers, schools, universities, researchers, and both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.
EDC Update Magazine Fall 2009
The Fall 2009 issue of EDC Update entitled “What a Catch” was selected in the Magazine/Newsletter category. The cover story, “Building Opportunity Around the World” describes EDC’s work to develop job skills and employment opportunities for youth in Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, and the West Bank.
The award was announced and presented to EDC Director of Communications Daphne Northrop at a luncheon ceremony June 8 at AEP’s Annual Summit in Washington, D.C.

According to the AEP website, awards honor outstanding resources for teaching and learning “and aim to identify products that exemplify the highest standards of professional, quality educational content, and set benchmarks to which the rest of the industry can aspire.”

The Beacon Awards recognize marketing products in 13 categories, including annual reports, brochures, catalogs, and e-mail marketing. Beacon winners, which have included The Wall Street Journal, Scholastic Inc., and Pearson Education, are judged on design and editorial quality, efficacy in reaching intended audience, and overall cohesiveness.

In addition to its international cover story, EDC’s winning entry also featured examples of domestic work, including programs focused on elementary science teaching and suicide prevention.
For more than four decades the AEP Awards have honored outstanding resources for teaching and learning. The EDC annual reports “Tangible Results” (2007) and “Portraits of Learning in Action” (2004) were previous Beacon Award winners.

Personally, I’m delighted to have shot the images for the cover story for EDC, it’s nice to know that one’s photos are making an impact.  EDC has been one of my most loyal NGO clients, we’ve been working together for almost a decade!

Below are a few shots from the 2007 and 2004 winning publications.

Return from the Philippines.

•June 5, 2010 • 2 Comments

I have just arrived home from the Philippines scouting trip, it was a great success. There are so many fantastic photo opportunities there, I’m really excited to get down to the “nitty gritty” and pull it all together. Over the next few weeks I will be putting the final touches on an itinerary and contacting the folks I met with while there, to hammer out all the logistics and pricing for a 2011 tour!

It’s sometimes funny how little coincidences seem to pop up. Like last night while going through some mail that had accumulated during my absence. Here I was, just returning from the Philippines, and on my desk I see Education Development Center’s 2009 Annual Report. On the cover was an image I shot for them in Mindanao and on other pages, shots I took in Afghanistan and Guinea.

Education Development Center (EDC), one of my NGO clients, is a global nonprofit organization that designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic opportunity. Working with public-sector and private partners, EDC harnesses the power of people and systems to improve education, health promotion and care, workforce preparation, communications technologies, and civic engagement. They have 350 projects in 35 countries around the world with programs and services which include research, training, educational materials and strategy, with activities ranging from seed projects to large-scale national and international initiatives.

So often in the news we only read about tragedy and conflict, so please, have a look at EDC’s Annual Report and perhaps explore their website for a few moments. It’s refreshing to see the wonderful and amazing things being done around the world by a committed group of individuals like those at EDC.

Stranded on Boracay Island

•May 29, 2010 • 9 Comments
The island of Boracay, just off the coast of Panay was originally home to the Ati tribe. Boracay is part of Aklan Province which became an independent province in 1956. Formerly undiscovered, it wasn’t till the 1970s that tourism began to develop in Boracay, and the island became popular with backpackers in the 1980s.
They tell me that years ago, Boracay Island was a well-guarded secret, but then in the 70s a foreign movie crew accidentally “discovered” this island paradise. Since then Boracay has become one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.

I came to Boracay Island in an attempt to find a tropical island get away for our possible 2011 photo tour; a kind of retreat, a place to recharge our batteries, review our portfolios and take in a little bit of Philippine beach culture.

This kind of R&R is not usually a part of any of our other photo tours, but with the beauty of the Philippines, I am reluctant to exclude it from our tour.

I hadn’t planned on spending this much time here, but after arriving I was informed that flights off of the island were fully booked.  Anyway, as beautiful as it is, it’s a bit too touristy, so tomorow I’m off to try and find another, less traveled island, one that can be our little slice of “undiscovered” paradise.

Of course, there could be worse places to be stranded, so I’m not complaining. In fact, I took advantage of the time and yesterday, hired a guide Anthony, and his boat, for a circumnavigation of  the island…Boracay is truly a stunning place!

Paalam! (Tagalog for good bye),

Click here for a Philippines slideshow

Leaving Sagada, the long haul to Baguio

•May 27, 2010 • 7 Comments
Just prior to leaving, I came across a small group of people, preparing food in a forested area near town, they were dismembering chickens. I was not able to communicate with them but everyone got a kick out of me being so interested in photographing the scene.

The main bus terminal (actually just an intersection with a small sundries store) in town was buzzing with action. Travelers and families waiting for the buses to fill before the drivers would proceed.

While waiting for my local bus to Bagio, I noticed a group of Filipino photographers ane we started a conversation. Several of them were carrying Think Tank bags, so I grabbed a few shots before the bus took off for Bagio. I think the folks at Think Tank will be happy to see that photographers the Philippines love their Thnk Tank bags!

It was a long 7 hours to Bagio and it was raining heavily on arrival. The road between Sagada and Bagio is an amazing engineering feat. The trip is not for the squeemish or those who tend to get motion sickness, but the scenery along the way is totally amazing. This stretch of road is considered by many to be the most beautiful section of road in the Philippines and I wouldn’t disagree. The road passes through countless small villages and provides views of rice terraces, nearly the entire way.

Rice Terraces and Hanging Coffins at Sagada

•May 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sorry for not posting in such a long time, I was under the impression that this post had already been uploaded, but when I checked the blog a few days later, I saw that this post was not successfully loaded. Anyway, here it is again…

The amazing rice terraces of Echo Valley, Sagada. Absolutely stunning and they are everywhere! I will be hard to choose the ones to photograph.

My local taxi driver guy said that the day before the fog was looming above the terraces!

Below you can see the cliffs near Sagada, where locals “bury” their dead. The coffins are actually suspended on the cliff face!

Here’s a close up showing a skull and bones clearly visible.

Oh what a difference one vowel can make!

•May 23, 2010 • 11 Comments

After a short flight and a long bus ride, I arrived in Vigan, hot and dry, stepping off the bus I reached into my pocket for my Chapstick (probably laboratory tested on animals) and applied it to my parched lips. Wearing my leather flip flops, (made from genuine cowhide), I set off to find my holel. Along the historic cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage City, I passed vendors selling the Philippine’s famous balut (boiled egg with embryonic chick inside) and restaurants selling Vigan’s famous Longanisa sausage, (a delicious concoction of all things carnivorous). It appeared, at least at first glance that there were few Vegans here in Vigan. Like I said….what a difference one letter can make. Now, let me go on record as saying that I have nothing against Vegans, or vegetarians for that matter, and I do spend quite a lot of time in parts of India where meat is difficult to come by. Although I enjoy a nice vegetarian curry dish now and then, when it comes down to my eating preferences, I do prefer a 100% beef burger over a McVeggie or a tofu sandwich any day. For example, tonight, I stopped for some street BBQ, it was delicious!

After checking into my hotel I set out for a quick twilight shoot of the historic district of Vigan, the heart of which is Calle Crisologo, with it’s crumbling Spanish architecture. Vigan kind of reminds me of Havana, but without all the music, nightlife and partying!

All around the historic heart of Vigan, horse drawn carriages were plying the streets past shops selling antiques and handicrafts. There were even a few shops selling cigars made from local tobacco and Vigan’s own mango wine.

Today I did a thorough exploration of the town and discovered some photo locations, including a weaving cooperative and a pottery factory.

Last Day in Manila

•May 21, 2010 • 4 Comments

It’s been an amazing three and a half days in Manila and I think that there will be plenty of options, if we decide to run a tour here. Between the bustling markets, the street scenes and all the photo-friendly folks, Manila has much to offer for photography.  Here are a few “parting shots” from Manila. Tomorrow I head up-country to Laoag and Vigan. I’m told that the Vigan lives up to its reputation of being the most well preserved Spanish Colonial town in the Asia. UNESCO lists it as a World Heritage site, so it’s probably going to be excellent.

Water front promenade, Manila Bay, Ermita.
Jeepnies plying the streets at sundown.
Motorcycles in front of old door, on Mibini Street
Man with shopping  bag, waterfront, Manila Bay
Child scavenging through flotsam and jetsam on the beach, Manila Bay
Sunset over the guard tower, United States Embassy, at Manila Bay, Ermita, Manila.

Manila Day 3

•May 20, 2010 • 4 Comments

Yesterday was spent mostly in traffic, commuting around Manila meeting with travel agencies and checking out a photography gallery in Makati.  Despite all that time sitting in taxis and jeepnies, I couldn’t help but take a few snaps along the way.

Manila Coke Sign

Manila Coke Man

CocaCola logos can be found in all the remote places on the planet, and they are a great backdrop for photos. Whenever I see a Coke logo with someone or something interesting in front of it I grab a few shots.

This guy saw me walking along, and lit up with a great smile and a thumbs up, I quickly raised the camera and snapped off two frames.

I share the four shot sequence above to point out the importance of staying with a subject long enough to capture the unfolding emotions or expressions. I often shoot sequences like this for my NGO clients, so that when they put together a piece, they are able to use the image that fits best. Moral of the story…stay with it, don’t put the camera down and start chimping until the action is over! My favorite is frame number three, what’s yours?

Cheers,

Karl

Manila: a lot more here than envelopes and file folders… (bad pun)

•May 19, 2010 • 10 Comments

Day two in Manila and there is so much here, I would put it on a parallel with Bangkok in terms of photo opportunities.

Red Santos and I started out by exploring and shooting around the railroad tracks in Manila, about 40 minutes away from the Ermita area, where I am staying. Just getting to a destination in Manila, provides plenty of visual stimulation. Jeepnies are a favorite of mine, with their color and adornments!

Under a highway bridge, just 2 meters from the railroad tracks, about 20 families have set up living quarters, each family staking out a spot large enough to construct a makeshift bed from cardboard, wood, or discarded mattresses. This family with four children have been living here for 4 years. The man works as a motorcycle taxi driver earning about 100 pesos a day ($2.25 US). The children play along the tracks, keeping a sharp eye open for oncoming trains.

There are quite a few men who operate small human powered trains, that will transport people along the tracks from point to point for a small fee. The “train” consists of a bamboo platform with seating and an umbrella. Underneath small wheels and a braking system can be found. The whole rig is powered much like riding a skateboard, pushing with one leg. If a real train comes along, everyone just jumps off and the driver removes the rig from the tracks, the ride is resumed after the train passes. Red and I took a ride and it was quite amazing! It reminds me of the “bamboo train” in Battambang, Cambodia. I’ve tried to upload a Flash video that I made with the D3s. I converted the AVI file to Flash using Proshow Producer and uploaded it to YouTube, then embedded it in this post…amazingly, I think it worked! Be sure to turn down you volume first because it came out very loud….I don’t know why it’s so loud but I will try to work on adjusting that next time I do a video.

Next we got back on the “real train” to get across town to our next photo shoot at a large marketplace. En route, the train hit a pickup truck at a train crossing. No one was injured but it caused quite a commotion.

After a long, hot, productive day of scouting, I bid farewell to my new found friend Red Santos. Thanks for all the help Red!

Manila: Day One of the Scouting Trip

•May 18, 2010 • 2 Comments

Red Santos met me at my hotel, the Grand Prix (see photo below) at around noon and we set out for Obando, a suburb about one and a half hours away from here to see and photograph Obando’s famous Fertility Festival. (please note: if you’re coming on the photo tour, don’t worry, we’ll be staying at the Hyatt down the street rather than the Grand Prix!).

Manila’s traffic is legendary, so Red and I used a combination of cabs, taxis, moto-cabs and Jeepnies in an attempt to get to Obando as quicky as possible.

Red knows his way around town, and with his expert guidance, in no time, we were standing on the platform of Manila’s intercity rail system. The ultra modern, comfortable, air conditioned cars are clean, economical and efficient.

photo by Red Santos

We took the rail system as far as we could and then caught a local Jeepnie for the last leg of our journey to Obando.

On the ride there, Red spoke to the locals, asking some specifics about the location and activities surrounding the Fertility Festival. One man in the Jeepnie was a wealth of information!

After about an hour and a half we arrived in Obando, and headed to the large church where the parade and mass takes place. Locals told us that there was a mass at 5:00 followed by a procession at 6:00. With time to kill Red and I wandered around making pictures in the area. We decided not to wait around until the procession, choosing rather, to visit one of Manila’s largest flower markets.

With amazing color and a mix of fragrances, the flower market was fantastic! If we end up doing a photo tour in the Philippines, this will be on our list of shoots.

As the afternoon went on, my jetlag started kicking in, so Red grabbed a Jeepnie back home, and I, took a cab back to my hotel.

Quite an amazing first day here in Manila. This Philippines photo tour is looking like a good idea!

Stay tuned,

Karl

The Philippines, a new photo tour destination?

•May 17, 2010 • 11 Comments
After 17 long hours I arrived in Manila, to a spectacular sunrise. The flight seemed long, especially with a refueling stop in Guam, but I had time to read parts of the Nikon D3s manual, which by the way, is like slogging through Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Sunrise on my arrival in Manila

I’m here in the Philippines to evaluate the potential of offering a photo tour here. I’ve worked in the Philippines extensively for my NGO clients, and throughout my travels I have discovered that it’s a place full of friendly people, great food, beautiful scenery and some very unexpected photo opportunities. Jim and I have been looking to expand our photo tour offerings into some of the less visited areas of the world and the Philippines seems like the perfect spot.

During the long flight here, I gathered some great information and recommendations about traveling in the Philippines from my seatmate Jay, and his friend Andre. Jay and Andre are Filipino businessmen, they were returning from a motorcycle tour through Chile and Peru. Both were a great source of information about overland travel in the Philippines due to the fact that being part of a Manila based motorcycle club, they have traversed much of the Philippine road network, including both paved and dirt roads.  We poured over maps and books and Andre and Jay filled me in on road conditions, travel distances and travel times.

I’m now sitting in my hotel lobby, unable to check in because it’s only 8:00 am. I should try to get some sleep, but I’m to pumped up about getting out there to shoot some images. At noon, there’s a Fertility Festival in Obando calling my new Nikons.

Take care, and stay with me…I’ll try and provide a bit of info on my travels, along with a photo or two everyfew days.

Cheers,

Karl

RTFM

•May 16, 2010 • 6 Comments

I’m not looking forward to tonight’s long flight from LA to Manila. A coach seat isn’t exactly what you’d call comfortable, especially with an expected fly-time of about 17 hours. But that doesn’t have to be time wasted..not when I have a new “novel” to read!

With the arrival of the new Nikon D3s’s, it’s time for me to really familiarize myself with these new tools. Having shot Canon for the past 6 years, I’m actually looking forward to learning something new, and getting my hands back on some Nikons. If there’s one thing Nikon excels at, it’s ergonomics. Nothing feels quite as good in your hand as that sculpted Nikon grip and the way the shutter release button is canted at just the right angle to meet your finger. Ahhhhh!

Time to RTFM (read the * manual)….my gosh, it’s three quarters of an inch thick and contains over 430 pages! Today’s camera manuals are a whole different story from what we were used to seeing back in the film days.

Upon arrival in Manila, I’m meeting freelance Filipino journalist, Red Santos. We’re heading  north of town to shoot the Obando Fertility Festival, so tonight will be my last chance to have an in-depth look and the D3s manual and make any last minor tweaks.

On Friday, I shot the D3s’s in Los Angeles during an assignment for an old friend, Dan Tobin. Dan previously headed up the communications department at Education Development Center, an NGO with prorams world wide. Dan now runs Stenhouse Publishers and he needed photos of high school students reading, learning and interacting with teachers. One of the classrooms I was photographing in, lacked a window, so I shot most of it at ISOs over and above what I could have, with my 6 year old Canon Mark II’s. Everything with the D3s’s was great, except that I felt like the focus was a bit slow. I think I’m going to have a look at reducing the number of available focus points, and see if that speeds things up.

So, on the plane tonight, it looks like I’m going to get a chance to test the effectiveness of the D3s owners manual. Let’s see if it is as potent as an Ambien and a Bud Light.

Sweet dreams all.

Ciao.

Karl

Reach Global

•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today I would like to highlight one of my clients: Reach Global. I shot for Reach in India, documenting their activities and programs. Click here to visit their website

Reach designs life changing education on health, livelihoods and family finance and replicates its delivery in the world’s poorest communities. They are an amazing group of dedicated individuals, out there making a difference. They are the quiet heroes that you probably have never heard of, so I’m introducing them to you. Have a look, I think you’ll be quite impressed with the work that they are doing. Cheers, Karl

10.Q Interview on line now

•April 30, 2010 • 3 Comments

Heber Vega is a humanitarian worker and photographer. He’s originally from Chile but now based in northern Iraq doing humanitarian work. Heber has a very informative blog and website. Currently, he’s doing a series of interviews called “10 Questions”, it’s about photographers who shoot for NGOs (non-government humanitarian organizations).

He has interviewed several different photographers, and  last week interviewed me. He just posted the text and pictures on-line, this morning. If you would like to see the interviews and learn more about photographers who shoot for NGOs click here.


have a great weekend
Karl

The Nikons arrived, my Canons are for Sale

•April 29, 2010 • 9 Comments
Well, as much as I hate to do it, I’m selling my Canons. It’s been 6 years that I’ve worked with them, but it’s time to let ’em go. These two workhorses have done an admirable job for me and I have enjoyed making images all around the world with them, but the new Nikons were expensive, and it’s time to recoup whatever is left of my original investment of $12,852 in May of 2004.

So, without further ado, here is the technical info and some images of my “legendary” Canons. If you, or anyone you know needs these, I’ll be auctioning them off with a starting bid for the whole system of just $3500 USD (plus shipping). Please note that I will not be selling individual components of this system, it goes as a package deal. If you’re interested just send me an email with your bid and when I get back from my assignment in Ecuador on May 8th, (if there are any bids) I’ll contact the winner. My email is karl@karlgrobl.com

In the case of a tie, I’ll go with the person who’s email came first. Please don’t call my house, as my wife knows nothing about these cameras. I’m really hoping that by offering them up to you guys, my friends first, that the cameras will go to a good home….if nothing happens here, then they go to an Ebay auction and will probably end up being purchased by a re-seller who will clean them up, split up the set and sell the pieces individually for more.

The complete system includes the following:

2 Canon EOS 1D Mark II bodies
1 Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS Lens (USM)
1 Canonm EF 16-35 f/2.8L Lens (USM)
1 Canon EF 2x Extender II (mint condition..never used)
1 Canon Speedlight 580EX Flash
4 batteries Canon NIMH Battery Pack f/EOS 1D (they hold about 40% of their original longevity after a full charge). In other words, when I start a day with a fully charged battery and shoot 300-400 frames per camera, they would burn through one battery each.
All original boxes, lens cases, cables, software disks,1 like-new charger and 1 “thrashed” but repaired charger.
No lens caps, no straps, no UV filters (UV filters were always protecting the lenses but now I’m transferring those filters to my Nikons).

 click on image to enlarge, then click again to see full size

As you can see by the pictures in this link, the bodies and lenses are pretty “rough” on the outside, but they are in excellent working order. The lenses have no scratches on the front or rear elements. My buddy Ken Rockwell tested and reviewed the 70-200 after I dropped it a few years ago, see that review here . Ken commented… “Not only does this dropped lens still work, it’s one of the best lenses I’ve tested for real-world use”.

I recently slipped and fell on wet pavement while working in Hanoi…the body with the 16-35 lens hit the ground, but it’s still working just fine. That story here.

Both bodies have over 160,000 shutter releases. One had a defective shutter which Canon replaced free of charge after about 40,000 and it’s now at 126,051, the other shutter is at 162,611. These shutters are rated for 200,000, but often work well beyond those predictions. So, even if the shutters die at 200,000 frames, you still have a combined total of over 70,000 shots left, or the equivalent of 1,944 – 36 exposure rolls of film before taking them in to Canon to have new shutters installed.

I have tried to answer any and all possible questions here but if you need to know something else about the cameras, please email me rather than leaving a comment on the blog, as I won’t be looking at comments nearly as often as checking my karl@karlgrobl.com email. And, again, I’m going to be in Ecuador until the 8th, so emails won’t necessarily be replied to quickly either. Sorry.

Again, please don’t call the house, my wife has no info on the cameras.

Anyway, I would love to see these bodies continue to be used, they would be great tools for someone who’s on a budget, and  needs or wants a professional system. I was making a living, selling the images that I was shooting with these cameras just last month, perhaps you can too.

If you are new to this blog and you would like to know a bit more about me, here’s a link to a recent interview I did about my work as a humanitarian photographer.

Cheers,

Karl
karl@karlgrobl.com

see more photos below, click on each image to expand

It’s official, I’m announcing retirement:

•April 19, 2010 • 7 Comments


The retirement of the two Canon Mark II bodies and the 16-35 and 70-200 lenses that have served me so well over the last 6 years. These two workhorses have been the tools which have helped me earn a living. They have been by my side through thick & thin, and then some. I’ve lived with them and enjoyed them as friends. I’ve slept with my head resting on them during train rides across India, I’ve protected them from would-be robbers in Haiti, and hid them under beds in Kabul, Cotabato and Cali. I’ve been tossed out of Cuba with them when I couldn’t convince immigration officials that I was a vacationing tourist who just happened to have worn-looking professional cameras.

My Canons have been locked up with my PackSafe in countless five-dollar-a-night hotels around the globe. I’ve shot them, unprotected, in heavy downpours in East Timor and in the dust storms of Southern Sudan. I’ve made images of Rajasthani rickshaw drivers and watched their eyes light up as I showed them their picture on the screen. I’ve handed them to novice monks in Burma and watched in delight as they discovered, wide-eyed, about the magic of digital photography.

Although I have mishandled them, including one incident when I dropped my 70-200 nine feet down, off of an elephant, (that story here) and Ken Rockwell’s review of the amazingly undamaged lens here), only once did these Cameras ever let me down; that was in Sri Lanka, back in 2006 while shooting one-year anniversary of the Tsunami when a shutter broke (story here).

But alas, technology marches forward in this new age of building faster, lighter, better, sharper cameras every 6months.

In “digital camera years” these Mark II bodies are dinosaurs. In order to serve my clients well, and provide them with the best images I can deliver, it’s time to replace them with upgraded technology. So, a few days ago I pulled the trigger and ordered two Nikon D3s’s from Adorama…..Nikon you gasp…yep, that’s right, Nikon. After much thought and a thorough analysis of the costs, I have decided to switch back to Nikon. You may remember my story in 2004 when I was robbed of my two trusted D1X’s while in a really bad neighborhood in Lima Peru (story here).

The debate that many photographers have over Nikon vs Canon, is something that has never really interested me, and I’ve always said that which camera you’re using doesn’t make a difference (see my quote in the last paragraph here.

My decision to “upgrade” is based on the improvement in picture quality at high ISO’s which I believe to be the most significant advancement in recent years, and my decision to switch from Canon to Nikon is based mostly on economic reasons….Let me explain: The way I see it, at this time, Nikon offers a full frame pro body with high ISO capability for $5000 while Canon’s full frame Mark IIIs is $6,115 and lacks high the newer, cleaner, high ISO settings. Since I have to buy two bodies, the math is simple. I can get 2 Nikon bodies, the 2 new lenses I need (the17-35 f2.8 and the new 70-200 f2.8), one extra battery and a flash (SB-400) for $14,609, while with Canon, it would cost me $12,229 for 2 full-frame 1Ds Mark III  bodies, (old technology with max 1600 ISO), plus another $2499 for the new improved 70-200 2.8, for a total of $14,729 . (Replacing the 16-35 2.8 would add another $1,520, but of course, I could just keep using my existing 16-35, 2.8).

Perhaps some would say, “but you can get the 5D Mark II for $2,500”…..I know, I know, but I need the toughness of professional bodies which can withstand the rigors and abuse that I will be subjecting them to, as well as ergonomics that don’t allow dials to be accidentally rotated when bumped (this is a problem I see with the command dial on the 5D Mark II). And then there was the option to get the new Canon Mark IV but I really wanted to get back to a full frame, for the little bit of extra wideness rather than stay with the 1.3 crop factor.

So; soon, I’ll be shooting Nikon again. Frankly, I’m looking forward to something new. Change is good, that’s one of the reasons I love my job so much…whether it’s traveling to a new country, covering a new story or in this case, getting new camera gear; change offers me an opportunity to learn something new.

Sure, I’ll have to get used to lenses that mount and zoom in the reverse direction, and yes, I’ll have to read an owner’s manual the size of an encyclopedia, but hell, why not, I need something to do on my next 16 hour trans-pacific flight.

858.689.1963As for the future of my 2 “gently” used, near “mint condition” Canons (ha ha), I’ll be selling those in order to help defer the cost of the new Nikons. So, if you know someone who might be interested in buying them, let me know, I’ll give them a great deal.

Cheers,

Karl

Model Release?

•April 14, 2010 • 2 Comments

I get a ton of questions regarding model releases, and to tell you the truth, I rarely if ever get them because most of the images I create are for editorial use. That being said, there are occasions when I want or need to obtain a model release.

Woman, Wad Shamam,  Sudan (no, I did not get a model release)

It’s always a pain digging through the camera bag (which is usually back at the hotel, or in the vehicle, too far away to get at) for a paper copy of a model release. So, when I learned from my friend Matt Brandon (The Digital Trekker) about Easy Release, available as an iPhone App, I went ahead and grabbed it for $9.99. It’s an amazing tool which just eliminated another piece of paper that I had to worry about carrying around. Wow, every time I am away for a few months I come back and something newer, faster, easier has come along!

Easy Release works like this…you download it onto your iphone or ipod touch, fill in the “photographer details” and next time you need to get a release you follow the on-screen instructions, and have the subject of your photo sign right on the screen of your iPhone. When it’s all done, you email yourself, and the model a copy (including a PDF with a photo if you like) and you’re done!

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Fighters, Cotabato, Mindanao, The Philippines 2009
(no, I did not get a model release)

Be advised, it does take a bit of time to fill in all the information using the tiny screen on your iphone, as you stand there, in the field with the model, but in the long run, having a digital copy makes a lot of sense, and the time and effort is probably worth it.

Here’s the link to the App Store page for Easy Release

Below please find and exerpt from the American Society of Media Photographers about model releases. (full tutorial here)

“A release is a written agreement between you and the person you are photographing, or the person who owns the property you are photographing. The purpose of the release is to protect you from any future lawsuits the person might file for claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy.

A model release says the person being photographed has given consent to be photographed and to the use of the images you capture. It doesn’t just apply to professional models or situations where people know they are posing for photos. You should seek to get a signed model release any time that your photos contain recognizable images of people, unless you are certain that you will never want to use them for anything other than editorial purposes.

A property release says that the owner of a certain property, such as a pet or a building, has given you consent to take and use images of the property. You don’t need one for public property, such as government buildings (although you may run into problems just from photographing them, for security reasons). But for images of private property — and particularly of objects that are closely identified with specific people — you are safer if you get a release.

The releases you obtain should be saved forever and should be linked in some way with the photographs to which they relate. You can expect to be asked to produce them whenever you license an image, and you will need them if you ever have to defend yourself in court.”

Coke, Color and Cops

•April 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Coca-Cola, or “nectar of the gods” as I call it, is the one thing that you can usually find, no matter where you are in the world. Zambuanga, Mindanao, the Philippines was no exception. I liked the combination of texture, color and shape in this scene, which I noticed on the side of the shop were I had just purchased a cold Coke.

I’m always on the lookout for great color combinations, and this mixture of blue with a dash of red caught my eye. The image was shot from the back window of the vehicle I was traveling in while stopped at a stoplight in Koronadal, Mindanao, the Philippines. Waiting for the boy to notice me as he peered out of the garage, I squeezed off a frame at the very moment our eyes met.

Cops are usually the guys you want to be friendly with, especially in dicey areas. While in Cotabato, Mindanao, the Philippines, I got to know the policeman who was in charge of the checkpoint on a bridge on the outskirts of town. On the day that I left, I asked to make his photo, he happily complied.

Back in San Diego

•April 12, 2010 • 1 Comment


I can’t believe that it’s been over three months since my early January departure for Sri Lanka to cover a story about post-war peacebuilding for the Asia Foundation . That assignment, followed by other NGO jobs, and my work leading 2 back-to-back photo tours in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia as well as a new photo tour to Vietnam, has kept me pretty busy.

I’ll be home for a while, catching up on correspondence, re-supplying, recharging and enjoying the comforts and conveniences of San Diego.

It’s always nice to come back and see some of the mail that has accumulated, including publications that have come in, from clients who have used some of the images that I shot for them.(below EductionDevelopmentCenter’s use of an image I shot for them in East Timor)

It’s also my opportunity to catch up on reading and get inspired…mostly by my magazine subscriptions including NPPA and National Geographic.

Once I dig out from under tons of correspondence and catch up on phone calls, I’ll have a surprise announcement for you gear-heads, so please stay tuned, and as always, thanks for following the blog.

Cheers, Karl

Participant's Images

•March 28, 2010 • 3 Comments

Now that the Vietnam Trip is finished, I would like to showcase some of the participant’s images. Everyone captured some truly amazing photos. It’s always exciting to see how each person “saw” a particular scene.

This outstanding image shot by Steve Chan was made during out boat trip on Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, north Vietnam

Vietnam Tour & Angkor Wat extension finished!

•March 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

Well folks, it was a great trip…our first, annual Vietnam photo tour! I know everyone who came along had a great time and I hope that all of you following the blog enjoyed all the updates and images. Now I would like to point you to a blog written by Anientra Hamper (daughter of Robbie Hamper, who’s been on almost all of my tours, and a few of Jim’s). Anietra was a first tim Jim Cline tour guest. She’s a news anchor for 10 TV in Ohio. If you have a moment, have a look at what a real writer can do with a blog! I was blown away by her descriptions of the tour. Here’s the link Enjoy!

Photo Tour Extension to Angkor Wat Cambodia:

•March 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

We have arrived in Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat. It’s been a non stop photo shoot!

No time to write anything, but I wanted to share a few images.
Cheers, Karl

Apsara Dancer and Huge heads at Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom Above,

Below: Tour guests Steve and John exploring Beng Mealea temple.





Kompong Kleang fishing village on the Tonle Sap Lake

Mother with children Kompong Kleang (above)
Kids having fun playing with my cameras (below)


Sunset Angkor Wat

Photo Tour Extension to Angkor Wat Cambodia:

•March 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment
We have arrived in Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat. It’s been a non stop photo shoot!
No time to write anything, but I wanted to share a few images.
Cheers, Karl 
Apsara Dancer and Huge heads at Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom Above, 
Below: Tour guests Steve and John exploring Beng Mealea temple.

Kompong Kleang fishing village on the Tonle Sap Lake

Mother with children Kompong Kleang

Kids having fun playing with my cameras.

 Sunset Angkor Wat

Ouch!

•March 15, 2010 • 6 Comments

Drizzly conditions make for slick pavement, which is great for photos but dangerous for walking. While photographing this flower vendor on the streets here in Hanoi about an hour ago, I stepped on a wet curb, slipped and fell, dropping my Mark II with the 16-35 f2.8 as I went down.

I saw the camera leave my hand, and watched its trajectory in slow motion, then heard that nasty shattering sound and saw some glass flying out past the lens hood as it hit concrete. All the Vietnamese sidewalk vendors gasped and frankly I feared the worst too. Picking up my camera, which had landed with the lens facing away from me, I was thinking to my self; this could be expensive, As I turned the camera towards myself I noticed that it was only the UV filter that had been obliterated. The lens’ front element was intact. I did a quick examination of the camera body as I picked the last chunks of remaining glass out of the bent filter ring.

I snapped off 2 frames; one of the crowd that looked on in horror (above) and one of the noodle shop guy who was standing next to me (below). Everything seemed to be working fine, so I showed the noodle guy the back of my camera, he broke out in a huge smile, the crowd cheered and I breathed a sigh of relief, raised my camera up high, smiled back at everyone and went on shooting.

Damn, these Canon Mark II bodies, and the pro quality lenses are built tough! I’m not so sure that a lesser quality, cheaper built camera and lens could survive this type of accident. Just another chapter in my “Thrashed Canons” story.
Cheers, Karl

Hanoi drizzle…that's a good thing!

•March 15, 2010 • 2 Comments

We arrived back in Hanoi this morning at 4:30 am on the train from Lao Cai. Since we were not able to check into our rooms, we grabbed an early breakfast and then hit the streets. Thanks to overcast skies and light drizzle, the streets were glossy and reflective, making conditions outstanding for photography.





Tonight we have a big photo sharing session and farewell dinner for those who won’t be joining us on the Angkor Wat extension.

Ouch!

•March 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Drizzly conditions make for slick pavement, which is great for photos but dangerous for walking. While photographing this flower vendor on the streets here in Hanoi about an hour ago, I stepped on a wet curb, slipped and fell, dropping my Mark II with the 16-35 f2.8 as I went down.

I saw the camera leave my hand, and watched its trajectory in slow motion, then heard that nasty shattering sound and saw some glass flying out past the lens hood as it hit concrete. All the Vietnamese sidewalk vendors gasped and frankly I feared the worst too. Picking up my camera, which had landed with the lens facing away from me, I was thinking to my self; this could be expensive, As I turned the camera towards myself I noticed that it was only the UV filter that had been obliterated. The lens’ front element was intact. I did a quick examination of the camera body as I picked the last chunks of remaining glass out of the bent filter ring.

I snapped off 2 frames; one of the crowd that looked on in horror (above) and one of the noodle shop guy who was standing next to me (below). Everything seemed to be working fine, so I showed the noodle guy the back of my camera, he broke out in a huge smile, the crowd cheered and I breathed a sigh of relief, raised my camera up high, smiled back at everyone and went on shooting.

Damn, these Canon Mark II bodies, and the pro quality lenses are built tough! I’m not so sure that a lesser quality, cheaper built camera and lens could survive this type of accident. Just another chapter in my “Thrashed Canons” story. Cheers, Karl

Hanoi drizzle…that's a good thing!

•March 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We arrived back in Hanoi this morning at 4:30 am on the train from Lao Cai. Since we were not able to check into our rooms, we grabbed an early breakfast and then hit the streets. Thanks to overcast skies and light drizzle, the streets were glossy and reflective, making conditions outstanding for photography.

Tonight we have a big photo sharing session and farewell dinner for those who won’t be joining us on the Angkor Wat extension.

Bac Ha Bonanza!

•March 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I just can’t stop shooting, today has been totally amazing and it’s not even noon! The photo opportunities are incredible. The Sunday market here in Bac Ha has offered up  more than we can even keep up with! Totally amazing!!!!



Sunday Market Bac Ha

•March 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Morning in Bac Ha was amazing! There were hundreds of Flower Hmong hill tribe folks coming into town and we captured the activity as it happened. The light was fantastic; overcast and soft, with areas of shade and strong light making conditions for “people photography” just perfect!

A 15th of a second pan shot using exposure compensation set to minus 2/3

Bringing a water buffalo to market

Jim sharing photos with a group of Flower Hmong women

Waiting for a customer

Man in traditional dress

Bac Ha Bonanza!

•March 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I just can’t stop shooting, today has been totally amazing and it’s not even noon! The photo opportunities are incredible. The Sunday market here in Bac Ha has offered up  more than we can even keep up with! Totally amazing!!!!

Sunday Market Bac Ha

•March 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Morning in Bac Ha was amazing! There were hundreds of Flower Hmong hill tribe folks coming into town and we captured the activity as it happened. The light was fantastic; overcast and soft, with areas of shade and strong light making conditions for “people photography” just perfect!

A 15th of a second pan shot using exposure compensation set to minus 2/3
Bringing a water buffalo to market

Jim sharing photos with a group of Flower Hmong women

 Waiting for a customer

Man in traditional dress

Afternoon Motorbike Ride, Bac Ha

•March 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment


On our ride through the countryside this afternoon we spotted some women returning from working in the fields. By waiting until they were in the correct part of the path, we took advantage of a stong lead line to make some nice images.

This was Barb’s first time on a motorbike and within a few minutes she was as comfortable as the locals!

We have arrived in Bac Ha

•March 13, 2010 • 3 Comments

We arrived in Lao Cai this morning at about 5:00 am on the overnight train from Hanoi.

We drove directly to Can Cau market and had a great time. More images and info soon, but I have to get some lunch!

Afternoon Motorbike Ride, Bac Ha

•March 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

On our ride through the countryside this afternoon we spotted some women returning from working in the fields. By waiting until they were in the correct part of the path, we took advantage of a stong lead line to make some nice images.

This was Barb’s first time on a motorbike and within a few minutes she was as comfortable as the locals!

We have arrived in Bac Ha

•March 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We arrived in Lao Cai this morning at about 5:00 am on the overnight train from Hanoi.

We drove directly to Can Cau market and had a great time. More images and info soon, but I have to get some lunch!

Cruising Halong Bay, Gulf of Tonkin, South China sea, Vietnam:

•March 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last night we arrived on Cat Ba Island in the gulf of Tonkin. Cruising Halong bay on a Chinese Junk boat was an amazing experience.

We were virtually alone on our trip through the limestone monoliths because we were taking a unusual route.

One of the tour guests, Jim House, who’s previously been on several of our tours is shooting a medium format Pentax. He’s having a blast shooting through tons of film!

Earlier in the day, on our way from Hanoi to Halong City (where we caught our boat) we stopped at some rice paddies long enough to make some great photos.

If you are interested in coming along on one of the small group photo tours that Jim Cline and I are leading, please check out this link

Our private boat arriving at Cat Ba Island

Today we head to Hai Phong, then by road to Hanoi and catch the night train to Lao Cai. Upon arrival in Lao Cai, we’re going to visit some local hill tribe markets around Bac Ha. I’ll try to post from Bac Ha, if internet is available. Cheers, Karl

Cruising Halong Bay, Gulf of Tonkin, South China sea, Vietnam:

•March 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last night we arrived on Cat Ba Island in the gulf of Tonkin. Cruising Halong bay on a Chinese Junk boat was an amazing experience.

We were virtually alone on our trip through the limestone monoliths because we were taking a unusual route.

One of the tour guests, Jim House, who’s previously been on several of our tours is shooting a medium format Pentax. He’s having a blast shooting through tons of film!

Earlier in the day, on our way from Hanoi to Halong City (where we caught our boat) we stopped at some rice paddies long enough to make some great photos.

If you are interested in coming along on one of the small group photo tours that Jim Cline and I are leading, please check out this link

Our private boat arriving at Cat Ba Island

Today we head to Hai Phong, then by road to Hanoi and catch the night train to Lao Cai. Upon arrival in Lao Cai, we’re going to visit some local hill tribe markets around Bac Ha. I’ll try to post from Bac Ha, if internet is available. Cheers, Karl

Hanoi, Vietnam, Day 2:

•March 10, 2010 • 1 Comment

Today we hit the streets of Hanoi again, visiting the old quarter, some markets, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Tomorrow we are off to Halong Bay. I wish I had time to write more. Cheers, Karl

 Silk Street, old quarter, Hanoi
 Modeling on the red bridge, Hoan Keim Lake
 Rushing along
 Shot for my buddy, Ken Rockwell
Wedding couple