All started in early 1996, when I returned from my first and month-long trip to India. I had taken with me unprecedented 30 rolls of KodakColor negative films, along with a rather primitive Tamron 28-85mm zoom and a Nikon FE. I was eager to share my experience with friends and family.
World wide web was not as prevalent as it is today, scanners were extremely scarce. Lucky enough to find one, I spent a sleepless night to scan all my favourite photos, put them together in my personal directory in my company's computer system, so that they can be shared among colleagues. I had little knowledge on image compression or resizing, neither did I know about basic web design principle or web etiquettes.
Less than a year later, my photo collection began to grow with my trip to Ireland, followed by my 6-month work assignment in UK, and my sojourn to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Morocco during the same period. It was no longer appropriate to store large collection of personal photos in work environment. On the other hand, world wide web and free web hosting began to gain popularity. This made it possible to share my photos with a wider audience. Recommended by a friend, I squatted a piece of land in geocities.com. The price was the frequent pop-up advertisements that were enough to annoy my audience. After my 1998 trip to the Karakoram Highway, it was time to spend a few dollars to eliminate the pop-up ads, and make my web pages more inviting and friendly.
Meanwhile, I learned more and more about digital imaging. I bought a second-hand Photoshop software, student version, and was excited to discover its seemingly unlimited capabilities. I got hooked ever since. My skill set had grown from basic auto contrast, sharpening to more elaborated curve adjustment, layers, channels etc.
The list of my countries I visited continued to grow, to the point that it made sense to create subdirectories to store photos of each countries. This also led to the idea of giving a small presentation for each country. After a few attempts in different designs, the current version of the front page began to take shape: each country was represented by a frame of slide, which was linked to a presentation page that best reflected this country. Many hours had been consumed in libraries for the literature part.
In 1999, as the prices of film scanners had fallen within the popular reach, I wasted no time to switch to slide films, which were known to have finer grains, better colour saturation. I tried Fujichrome Sensia II for my trip to Yemen. A new Sigma 28-105mm/2.8-4.0 had replaced the old Tamron damaged by the severe shock in the Karakoram buses.
In 2000 and 2001, I found myself in Dogon country and Timbuktu in Mali, and Patagonia and Easter Island in Chile. During the post-trip research, I was euphoric to discover the world of Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, and surprised by how much my photos were closely related to their poems. A virtual poetic book was thus immediately born. Quite disappointingly, however, I found the images taken by the Sigma were rather soft. The resolution was low particularly at the image corners when using large apertures.
It was then time to switch to lenses with better quality. With a small budget, I acquired from EBay a 28mm/2.8 and a 105mm/2.5 Nikon AIS lenses in addition to the existing 55mm/2.8 Micro, plus an FE2 which helped avoid frequent change of lenses. I was also convinced that it was worth some extra dollars to upgrade the films to Ektachrome E100VS and Fujichrome Velvia and Provia.
My journey to Ethiopia was the first field test of the combination of gears. The trip took place in early 2002, with a clear objective in mind: to photograph the entire Timket festivity in Ethiopia, as well as Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity as a whole. The results turned out to be a huge success. The images were crisp and sharp, the colour was saturated, the moments captured were genuine. Since the images were posted on-line, they were warmly received by the audience, especially the community of the Ethiopian expatriates in North America. The trip served as a milestone of my transition to a higher level of photography.
2002 and 2003 marked the years of economic depression. But this also provided an opportunity for me to spend more time on the road. After a short visit to Cuba, I finally materialised my dream trip to China. Being a native-born of the country, I found myself once again fully immerged into the Chinese culture. My three-month journey covered the three provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan. I needed no guide book, I travelled freely like fish being back into water, my deep knowledge of the country's geography and people enabled me to penetrate places not even known by most natives. I took all together 80 rolls of Fujichrome Provia and Ektachrome E100VS.
By early 2004, I was convinced that the enormous convenience of digital photography had outweighed its slight disadvantage in resolution over professional slide films. It was time for me to replace my entire manual, film-base gear with a Canon EOS 300D and a 17-40/4 L and a 70-200/4 L. In three weeks in Myanmar, I took equal number of shots as I did in three months in China. The elimination of scanning made it possible to share my photos on-line almost immediately.
As addressed in the front page, the purpose of this web site is to promote international cultures and understanding through the means of photography. It is my hope that the audience do appreciate not only the beauty of the images, but also the cultures portrayed that are not of their own. Only then, we can be less ignorant, less arrogant, and living peacefully in this global family.
Since the inception of this web site, it has attracted numerous visitors from countries from different continents, including:
Africa: Morocco, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Togo, Benin, Mauritius, Uganda, Seychelles
Americas: The United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Columbia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Guatemala, the Bahamas
Asia and Oceania: China, Australia, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Iran, Palestinian Territories, Bahrain, Kuwait, The Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Macau, Armenia, Lebanon, Laos, Sri Lanka, Oman, Cambodia, Qatar, Myanmar
Europe: The United Kingdom, The Nethelands, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Turkey, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Czech Rep., Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia, Iceland, Luxembourg, Hungary, Romania, Russian Federation, Lithuania, Malta, Latvia, Slovakia, Bosnia i Herzegovina, Macedonia (FYR), Ukraine, Bulgaria
The Globe: .net, .com, .org, .edu, .mil, .gov, .arpa
|Dec 1984||China: Kunming, Dali.|
|1987||China: Guilin, Hengshan, the Shaolin Temple, Qingdao.|
|Apr 1992||Canada: the Rockies, Prince George, Prince Rupert, the Queen Charlotte Islands.|
|Sep 1992||Alaska Panhandle: Ketchikan, Wrangel, Petersburg, Sitka, Angoon, Hoonah, Tenakee Spring, Juneau.|
|Sep 1995||Trans Canada: Ottawa -> Northern Ontario -> Winnipeg -> Churchill -> Swift Current -> Banff -> Vancouver.|
Dec 1995 -
|India: Delhi, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Agra, Varanasi, Sanarth, Darjeeling, Sikkim.|
|Dec 1996 -
|Ireland: Dublin, Galway, the Connemara, Tralee, Dingo, Derry.|
|Jul 1997 -
|United Kingdom: various places.|
|Oct 1997||The Czech Republic and Hungary: Prague, Karlovy Vary, Budapest.|
|Dec 1997||Morocco: Casablanca, Marrakech, Ouarzazatte, Zagora, M'Hamid, Erfoud, Taroudaant, Todra Gorge, Agadir, Tan Tan, Tarfaya, Rabat, Fes.|
|Aug 1998||The Karakoram Highway (Pakistan - China): Karachi, Islamabad, Besham, Gilgit, Karimabad (Hunza), the Khunjerab Pass, Tashkurgan, Karshgar.|
|May 1999||Scotland: the Orkney Island.|
|Sep 1999 -
|Yemen & Jordan: Sana'a, Seyoun, Shibam, Tarim, Wadi Doan, Al Mukalla, Aden, Taez, Ibb, Jibra, Kaukaban, Amman, Jeresh, Wadi Rum, Petra.|
|1999 - 2000||European Cities (Business Trips): Rotterdam, the Hague, the Netherlands; Strasbourg, France; Kelh, Nuremburg, Germany; Zurich, Switzerland; Vaduz, Lietenstein; Swindon, UK.|
|Sep 2000||Mali: Bamako, the Dogon Country, Timbuktu.|
|Apr 2001||Chile: Santiago, Punta Arenas, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Easter Island.|
|Jul 2001||Canada: the Rockies (Banff and Jasper).|
|Jan 2002||Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Gondar, Axum, Debre Damo, Lalibela, Bahar Dar.|
|Apr 2002||Turkey: Istanbul, the Cappadocia.|
|Aug 2002||US Southwest National Parks: Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Canyonland, Arches, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Taos.|
|Dec 2002||Cuba: Havana, Santiago, Camaguey, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad.|
|Jan 2003 -
|China: Chengdu, Aba, Anshun, Shuoga, Rongjiang, Congjiang, Liping, Ziyun, Yuanyang, Judian, Zhongdian, Deqin, Cizhong, Daocheng, Danba.|
|Aug 2003||Mexico: Mexico City, Amecameca - Mts Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl.|
|Jan 2004||Myanmar & Thailand: Yangoon, Mandalay, Bagan, Sagain, Amarapura, Kalaw, the Inle Lake, Bangkok.|
|Dec 2004||USA: Kauai|
|Oct 2005||Poland: Warsaw, Bialystok, Bohoniki, Kruszyniany, Krakow|
|Dec 2005-Jan 2006||Bolivia: Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Uyuni. Chile: San Pedro de Atacama, Arica. Peru: Lima, Arequipa, Mt. Mismi, Chivay, Cuzco, Iquitos|
|Jul 2006||France: Avignon, Arles, the Camargue, St-Rémy, Sault, Annot, Entrevaux, Rougon, Moustiers-Ste-Marie, Roussillon.|
|Oct-Nov 2006||Cambodia: Siem Reap / Angkor. Laos: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng|
|Feb 2007||Spain: Cordoba, Sevilla, Carmona, Cadíz, Medina Sidonia, Setenil de las Bodegas, Zahara de la Sierra, Ronda, Granada, Toledo|
|May-Jun 2007||Czech Republic: Telc, Vlcnov, Slavkov u Brna, Litomysl, Kunha Hora, Prague, Litomerice, Terezin, Karlovy Vary, Loket, Becov nad Taplou, Marianske Lazne, Cesky Krumlov|
|Nov 2007||Madagascar: Antananarivo, Île Sainte Marie, Toamasina, Andasibe, Morondava, Ifaty, Toliara, Ranohira, Isalo, Ambalavao, Fianarantsoa|
|Dec 2007||France - Languedoc-Roussillon & Midi-Pyrenées: Toulouse, Cacarssonne, Millou, Séverac-le-Chateau, Sainte-Eulalie-d'Olt, Saint-Genier-d'Olt, Saint-Côme-d'Olt, Estaing, Conques, Belcastel, Albi, Najac, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Rocamadour, Cahors, Saint-Cirq-la-Poppie|
|April 2008||China: Bamei (坝美), Yuanyang (元阳), Butuo (布拖)|
|Aug 2008||Papua New Guinea: Madang, Goroka, Kabiufa, Kaveve, Mt. Hagen, Wabag, Lake Sirunki|
|Dec 2008||Malta: Malta, Gozo|
|Dec 2008||Vatican: Vatican (Christmas)|
|Dec 2008||San Marino: San Marino|
|Jan 2009||Italy: Rome, Tivoli, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Monteriggioni, Colle Val d'Elsa, Lucca, Pisa, San Leo, Castellina in Chianti|
|Apr 2009||Guatemala: Panajachel, Nebaj, Antigua (Semana Santa)|
|May 2009||Russia: Astrakhan, Elista|
|Sep 2009||Iceland: Entire Country|
|Dec 2009||Morocco: Marrakech, Rabat, Vallee de Bougumez, Azilal, Beni Mella, Merzouga, Vallee Dades, Tinghir, Tamtetoucht, Vallee de Rose, Ouarzazate, Fes, Chefchaouen|