A Devilish Ride

I continue my ride down memory lane. This time literally. You may have noticed that the last couple of blog posts, I have been writing and showing images from past experiences. Two reasons for this: First of all, I have been re-organizing my analogue photo archive, and then we have this travel ban imposed on all of us, so if nothing else, I can at least travel back in time.

This time, I will take you to Bolivia and a mindboggling bike ride I did quite a few years ago. The ride took me down what used to be the main road between the capital La Paz and Las Yungas, the lowlands north in the country, the spring of the Amazon. Today a new road has replaced it, but back then the Inter-American Development Bank designated the old trade route to be the world’s most dangerous. Every year, around 100 people lost their lives on this important but life-threatening trade route.

The bike ride was organized by a local tour agency and the group was brought to La Cumbra pass at 4700 metres or just under 15500 feet. Ahead of us was a 65 kilometres (40 miles) winding road down 3600 metres (11800 feet) of altitude difference.

The first part went along the new road already under construction, paved and just pure fun. The biggest danger was dogs chasing the bikes—not something you want to hit at a speed of, at the most, 90 kilometres per hour (56 miles per hour).

About halfway down, we enter the old road, caved out along a steep mountainside. Many places the dirt road cut straight into the vertical rock wall. Several hundred meters of free fall to one side made it a trembling experience. In some places, the dirt road is actually narrower than some of the trucks, which used to use it. Most accidents along the death road happened due to truck drivers who had to hurry to earn enough for a living.

While we had sun the first part of the ride, when we enter the old road, fog came in from the mountains.

After a while, I could see absolutely nothing. The fog was like wet cotton. The last remnant of sight, the torrential rain took away. I knew the abyss was there, just a metre or so to the left of where I now raced down a bumpy and muddy dirt road by bike. 300 metres straight down.

As we descended into the valley, the temperature rose. After a few hours we were met by the steaming jungle. As we came out of a narrow gorge and the valley opened up, the fog and rain eased, and soon the sun would be shining from an open sky again. The last kilometres would be pure victory ride.

The Curse of Hit Rate

The photo above was captured on my last overseas photo workshop before the world closed down. That said, I am not going to rant about the pandemic and what it has deprived us of—we all know that too well. Neither am I going to write about photo workshops I hope to get going again—if the pandemic will allow me to do so.

The reason I chose the photo has to do with the photographic process, the workflow of capturing images, if you will. As much as it isn’t depicting something I could plan, but rather capturing the unpredictability of life as such, neither is it an accidental photo.

The photo was taken in La Higuera, a tiny village in Bolivia with only a handful of dwellings. It’s where Che Guavara, back in 1967, was captured by the Bolivian army—or more precisely in a gorge right outside the village. Irma Rosada, the woman in the photo, was only a girl when the world came crashing down on her village. She clearly remembers the capturing of Che Guevare, his imprisonment in the local school and the subsequent execution the next afternoon.

Today, Rosa runs the little store in the village, and the photo shows her baking bread for her store.

Everything in the photo tells the story of Irma, or adds to the story; obviously herself, the bread and the brick kiln, but also the water melon, the dirty ground, the sunset behind trees, indicating the landscape beyond, and even the bit of laundry hanging out to dry. And more so I captured Irma as she was about to empty the kiln from a batch of rolls. Her gaze, her lifted right foot, the habitual handling of the baking tray, her facial expression—all say something explicit about Irma.

The photo tells a story about Irma Rosalind. I took the photo, and it turned out very nicely. I am happy with the result. However, as mentioned, it wasn’t accidental. First of all, I was ready. Secondly, I took a lot of photos to ensure I got it.

The latter, I am not the least embarrassed to say. I take a lot of photos that are crap, not working, looks like shit and will never make it out of my archive. The thing is, I don’t care about all the bad photos I end up with. What I care about is the few left that I can be proud of or feel good about.

Too many photographers have a thing with “hit rate” and being good enough. They think that some day they will be able to take 40 photos in a day that are all masterpieces, because that is kind of the idea you get when you look at exhibitions or a photo books and see the masters’ images. You somehow think they did them all in one take.

Reality is that every photographer who ever did any master images only did a relatively few good photos and even fewer great photographs in a lifetime.

If you look through the negatives, slides or digital files of master photographers, you will see plenty of photos out of focus, too over- or underexposed, empty streets (because the subject hasn’t entered the frame yet or has left before the photographer pressed the shutter release button). Even more importantly, when you study the best photos that define history, you will see that the photographer actually captured a lot of photos of the same scene—and only one survived.

As Elliot Erwitt once said: “It takes a lot of photographs to make one good”.

If you do an internet search on “hit rate in photography”, you will find a lot of articles and posts about how to boost or increase your amount of so-caller keepers. Why would it even matter if it’s 5 percent of 20 percent of captured images that are good? What matters is how many good ones you have in the end. All the rest, and how many, is of no interest at all.

Yes, some photographers blast away and aren’t mindful when photographing, but usually I see the opposite; that is, most photographers are not photographing enough. I see that in every workshop I teach. They may capture three or five images of a situation—and think they have photographed a lot. When in reality they have hardly started.

As you can see the screenshot beneath, I took a lot of photos of Irma Rosado, to get then one I was satisfied with. That’s why it isn’t an accidental photo. And I don’t care for a second how many captures it took to get the one. So, don’t worry about your hit rate. Just photograph.

Earthy Bolivia

As I have written before, the photo workshop I taught in Bolivia in the end of September and the beginning of October was a great experience for all, for the participants and the organizers alike.

Bolivia is a splendid country for a photo workshop. The people are open and hospital, the majority of which live a simple and down-to-earth life, their culture rich and colourful and not the least the nature they are surrounded by, with breathtaking mountain ranges, spectacular valleys and lush forests.

As soon as the participants had acclimatized, they captured amazing images, and better and stronger for each day of the workshop, as could be seen in my post Excellent Photography a couple of weeks ago.

Here are a handful of images I was able to capture myself. They don’t come close to what the participants were able to produce. But that’s how it should be, they were in Bolivia to learn and photography, while I was there to teach and guide. I am only happy they got home each with a strong portfolio of Bolivia photos.

Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Excellent Photography

© Jathushiga Bridget Rajah
© Inger Ellen Eftevand Orvin
© Vigdis Robberstad
© Katharina Dale Håkonsen
© Monica Broen
© Nicolaas Kuipers

As I wrote in my last blog post, the photo workshop in Bolivia in the end of September and beginning of October was a great experience for both participants and the organizers, that is me and my colleague Sven Creutzmann.

Not only was it great experience, though, during the ten days the workshop lasted, the participants grew and showed significantly developments. Of course, to varying degree. For anyone who is already an experience photographer, it’s always harder to show any drastic improvements. However, those in an earlier stage of their development have a larger potential for advancing their photography. And that’s exactly what happened during the Bolivia workshop. It was great fun to watch how they all were able to capture stronger and more enchanting images, particularly as the days went by and towards the end of the workshop.

Here is a handful of their captivating images, showing the rural life in the eastern mountains of Bolivia. Enjoy!

A Delightful Bolivia Workshop

I have just returned from teaching my latest photo workshop in Bolivia. It was a really fun workshop, with dedicated participants, lots of photo opportunities and plenty of enjoyable moments. Most important for us, the workshop teachers, was seeing how each participants were able to develop their photography during the 10 days we were travelling in eastern parts of Bolivia.

This workshop involves a lot more travelling than most of the workshops I teach. More or less every second day we were taking off to a new town or village, which both makes the workshop more adventures as well as add some pressure with regards to being able to find time for picture critiques and lectures every day.

We were travelling in the footsteps Che Guevara and his failed revolutionary attempt in Bolivia fifty years ago. Following his last days was just a framework for the travel not a theme for the photographing—unless participants chose to do so. After meeting up in Santa Cruz, the financial hub in eastern Bolivia, we took off first to Samaipata, then to Vallegrand and La Higuea before returning to Santa Cruz. The highlight was no doubt La Higuera, a small village high up in the mountains with a handful of houses and only 43 inhabitants.

I think it’s fair to say, that the combinations of daily feedback on photos the participants take as well as being able to photograph one and one next to either me or my colleague Sven Creutzmann, with whom I taught the workshop, give a good dynamic for each participant to develop his or her photography. The result was noticeable. A lot of very strong imagery was captured during the workshop.

This is the third team we have organized this workshop.

Here are a couple of glimpses behind the scene during the workshop. Later on, I will get back with photos we shot during the ten days in Bolivia.

On the Road Again

As you are reading this post, I am getting going teaching another photo workshop in Bolivia. It has just started. Today, Monday, we are heading out from Santa Cruz, the regional centre in eastern Bolivia, to the village of Samaipata. Over the next week plus, we will continue to Vallegrande and La Higuera and finally head back again to Santa Cruz at the end of next week.

I have been looking forward both to be on the road and not the least to teach this workshop again. Last time we did it—that is my friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann and I—was back in 2013. We have a nice group of participants with us this time, most of whom have attended at least one of our workshops before.

This is definitely a photo workshop for the more adventures photographers. Yes, here in Santa Cruz we stay at a great and quit luxurious hotel, but hereafter it’s going to be plenty of bumpy roads and the most unpretentious of accommodations. Simply because that’s all there is in the towns and village up in the eastern mountains of Bolivia.

The tour will follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara. For some he was a hero, for some a terrorist. No matter what you think about him, the history and how it all ended here in the mountains of Bolivia is fascinating.

I will try to keep you posted about the trip and the workshop as we go, but cannot promise anything. Internet is not well accessible in these rural areas. Anyway, here we go.

Photo Workshop in Bolivia

I have written about it before. But I would like to once again mention that my colleague Sven Creutzmann and I are planning an extra ordinary photo workshop in Bolivia. It will be all about photography—of course—and travelling in a fascinating country with an amazing landscape—and its beautiful people. And again we are following the footsteps of Che Guevara and his last days in Bolovia before he was captured and killed by the Bolivian army. We will meet people who met with Che Guevara and took care of him during those last days.

Although, following his footsteps will only be a red thread through our own photographic journey where the pictures by the participants will be the focus on an everyday basis. If you would like to join, Sven and I will guide you to a better understanding of your photographic vision, we will push you to express it as best you can in your shooting and we will teach you how to approach the photographic process with a creative and personal touch. This workshop is directed to photographers of all levels, beginners to advanced professionals. In other words: Whoever loves photography! In this workshop you will improve your photographic skills; you will learn to better use your camera and improve your understanding of light. The main focus will be on the picture, not on the technical part of the photographic process.

This workshop will take place from September 23rd to October 2nd 2019 and we start our photographic journey from Santa Cruz, the capital of the eastern province of Bolivia and the business centre of the country. From there we will travel up into the lower mountains (up to 3000 meters above sea level) where Che Guevara tried to impose his revolution in Bolivia more than 40 years ago. If you think experiencing—and photographing—this beautiful part of the world with two very experienced photographer sounds like a dream come true, maybe it’s time to plan to join the workshop in the autumn coming up.

There are still space if you ware interested in participating.
For more info, please click on the link

Two Adventures

I think there is no better way to develop your photography and creative skills than attending a workshop. It’s usually a concentrated couple of days or a week full of intense experiences in which you will be pushed beyond your usual boundaries. Through daily teaching, practice and not the least feedback, you get an invaluable chance to grow and expand. Moreover, the exchange with other students is such an inspirational and transcending experience. And if you choose to attend a workshop out of your regular environment, for instance going to a foreign country, the travel will become a source of stimulation in and of itself.

As such, I would like to promote two photo workshops I am teaching this year. They will certainly be adventures for anyone attending them. One of them takes place in fascinating Cuba in the late spring while the other heads to little exploited areas in Bolivia in the autumn.

Cuba needs no further introduction. This Caribbean island nation is pure bliss for a photographer of any kind. The colours, the light, the energy, the culture, the history and not the least its people—Cuba is a blast for all sense. Anyone who has travelled to Cuba knows this. For the same reasons Cuba is heaven for a photo workshop.

Bolivia is more subtle and more reticent, but nonetheless an equally fascinating country to visit. It’s first of all a mountainous country, colourful in its own terms, particularly the country’s majority of indigenous people in their traditional costumes. It’s a laidback country, authentic and unpretentious. Beautiful countryside. Lots of history. Exciting food. And, yes, for photographers Bolivia offers plentiful of opportunities.

My Cuba photo workshop runs from May 4th to 11th. During the week, we will start up with a couple of days in Havana and then head out to the picturesque, colonial city of Trinidad for the remainder of the time. For more information, look up Street Photography in Cuba.

If Cuba is an adventure, so Bolivia is even more. This photo workshop will take you to the eastern mountains of the country, where we will follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara’s last day before being captured and executed. We will visit small towns and village not usually visited by tourists. This photo workshop takes place from September 23rd to October 2nd. For more information, look up On the Tracks of Che Guevara.

Whether you attend one of my workshops or any other photo workshops taught by other organizers, I strongly recommend the experience. I know both as an organizer and one who participates myself. Later this year, I will attend a photo workshop myself in Rome. Maybe I’ll see you there?

How you ever attended a workshop—and how was the experience?

Photo Workshops in Planning

Two of the participants during the Bolivia workshop in 2013
The participants of the 2010 Bolivia workshop

Sitting at my desk here in Seattle, looking out at the cold mist cramping down on the urban scenery outside my window, I can all the more enjoy spending time planning next year’s photo workshops. Honestly, it’s always fun to plan upcoming workshops. I love teaching and planning is part of the built-up.

If everything goes according to plan, next year I will teach four workshops on three different continents. Some of them will be very adventurous while others while be more laidback. They will vary from weekend long workshops to a tour stretching almost a fortnight. There should be a workshop for most aspiration. Maybe I’ll see you in one of them?

Once again, I will teach a photo workshop in Cuba in May. This is my most popular workshop, which I teach together with my friend and colleague, Sven Creutzmann. We have done this since 2007, almost every year. Here on my blog I have written many a post about Cuba, and if you follow me, I don’t need to introduce you to this fascinating country. It’s certainly a country that it’s a dream place for most photographers, colourful with openhearted people and photo opportunities around every corner.

Next year’s photo workshop will take place from May 4th to 11th. If you may be interested, you’ll find more information on Blue Hour Photo Workshops, «Street Photography in Cuba».

For Sven and me it’s extra exciting to re-launch a photo workshop in Bolivia. This will be a truly adventurous workshop, in which we follow the footsteps of Che Guevara, up until he was captured and killed by the Bolivian army. We will travel through small mountain towns and off the beaten tracks in a lush and beautiful landscape. We will meet local people and we will talk with some of those who took care of Che Guevara after he was captured. In all modesty, this is quite an extraordinary photo workshop.

The Bolivia workshop will take place from September 15th to 24th. For more information, once again look up Blue Hour Photo Workshops, «On the Tracks of Che Guevara».

In addition to the Cuba and Bolivia workshop, I will teach yet another weekend workshop in Bergen, Norway in the beginning of June. Next year I also plan a complete new photo workshop in Seattle, USA. The date is yet not settled, but it will take place in the autumn of 2019. These two workshops I will get back to with more info.