Monday, February 8, 2010
What's your favourite country?
Of all the questions I get asked about my job, this is the one I get the most? It's kind of like asking the doctor at a Saturday BBQ to take a quick look at something that's bothering you.
And to be perfectly honest there really isn't an answer. I love everywhere I go but speaking to my Mum on the phone this morning, and a Facebook message from a mate reminded me how much I love Nepal.
My parents are planning to go there next year and my friend is getting ready for a trip there in a little while. Just talking to them brings back so many memories of elephant back safaris, long-bearded saddhus and majestic snowy peaks. Not to mention yummy lentils, incredibly friendly people and fascinating Buddhist culture. My wife and I were there for a total of about three months and spent about one month of that trekking in the Himalayas.
It took us three weeks to get this point - Gokyo Peak, high in the Himalayas near the border with Tibet. Down the bottom next to the lake you can see the little town where everybody stays. It's only a few hundred metres above the town to the summit of Gokyo Ri but the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere as well as the steep climb means it takes a long time.
Photographically the area is amazing but for another reason I'm amazed at how the pictures turned out. You see my autofocus in my camera died while I was in the Philippines just before we got here on a one year round-the-world trip. So I did everything on manual focus assuming that if I saw it clearly through the viewfinder than it was sharp! Lucky for me it was.
Everyone who goes to Gokyo climbs the last peak for a glimpse of Everest and so you might find yourself at the top of this 'hill' surrounded by a couple of hundred people. My wife had been suffering from headaches so we were worried about altitude sickness and had thought of going back down. In the end the morning we were to decide she felt better so we went for it.
By the time we left everybody else had come back down so we ended up having the entire summit to ourselves for about four hours. Sitting on top of the world surrounded by 8000 metre peaks, flapping prayer flags and the sound of nothing else but the wind and a friendly bird and it was yet another one of those travel moments where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it's real.
My father-in-law has a giant print of this image on his living room wall. It's always been his dream to see Mt Everest and I doubt he'll get there now, but this is a momento of his daughter getting there and he loves to just stare at the picture. It reminds me and humbles me to think that I have this amazing vocation that allows me to live not only my own dreams but to capture images that help people back home share their dreams vicariously through photography. It's something I never take for granted.
If only he knew that it took about four times to get this one. The camera on the tripod was quite a way away over some rocky gullies and I would push the self-timer and then run like crazy to get into a kneeling position beside my wife. Three times I heard the shutter click when I was three quarters of the way there! Made it on the fourth. :) He doesn't read English so we'll just keep it our little secret!