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A House Boat Ride in Kerala

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While in Fort Kochi, Kerala, we took a day trip over to Alleppey and did a house boat ride for the day. With a not-quite-2 year old, we declined to do an overnight ride.

Also called Allapuzha, Alleppey is the oldest planned town in the region and the 6th largest in Kerala. Its backwaters are very popular with tourists and they have a big boat racing festival each year. It is covered in lagoons, rivers, canals, and lakes. Water plays a very big role in this region! 

It was very pleasant watching the other boats and people on the shore. Boats provide most of the transportation here—you had school kids using boats as school buses, boats taking people from one side to the other, boats transporting goods, and of course, houseboats with tourists. Much of what we saw were narrow strips of land with houses right up against the rivers or canals or lakes with watery rice paddies behind them. There were roads and bridges in a long strip by the houses, but I didn’t see many cars. Most used boats, or perhaps bikes.

Every house had steps leading down from the wall to the water. People went in the water to bathe (women fully clothed, men were shirtless) and do laundry. Kids splashed and played in the water. We also saw a lot of people fishing from shore.

We also saw a massive school structure and churches and temples. Some buildings were obviously shops, including one where we stopped at to buy the most massive Tiger prawns I have ever seen. Three prawns were 1 kg (about 2.2 lbs)!!

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Black and White vs Color

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One decision you need to make when editing is whether the image works better in color or black and white. This is mostly a personal preference and not everyone will pick the same option. In the shot above from a house boat ride near Alleppey, Kerala, India I prefer the black and white version. The trees stand out against a pale sky and draw attention to themselves. High contrast photos tend to work well as black and white. If you find that a photo has too much noise or grain in it, it might work better as black and white. I also will convert to black and white if I ended up with too many blown highlights (aka the light or white parts of the image got too bright to fix as the details are lost and you see pure white). Blown highlights don’t stand out as much in a black and white image.

So which image do you prefer above? The black and white or the color? Do you ever convert to black and white?

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Chinese Fishing Nets of Kerala

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These are the Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort Kochi, Kerala, India. They are massive nets that are lowered into the water and brought up several minutes later, hopefully with fish. They use massive poles (traditionally wood, but now metal is used more often) and a rope/rock pulley system. It takes about 5-6 men to operate the net. They divvy up 60-70% of the profits and the remaining goes to the owner of the net. The ones we went to are mainly operated for the tourists now, as there are not many fish. But they let us come out on the pier, take photos, watch them pull up the net, and then we get to try it ourselves. I then paid a tip (rs 100-or about $1.50) for the experience.

Kerala likes to call itself “God’s Own Country” and you see it on signs all over the place. Kerala is a state in the southwest part of India. Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu border it, along with the Arabian Sea. The people there speak Malayalam and most speak English as well. Hindi is not used in Southern India—people generally learn their local language and possibly English. Kerala has a 91% literacy rate (highest in India) and the lowest rate of population growth. It also has done a lot to eradicate some of the issues of lower castes and women historically have had more rights and access to more things, like education.

Kerala’s coastline is 371 miles long-it is a long, skinny state. You have the coast on one side and green hills on the other. There are hundreds of streams and several large rivers, which makes water a very important part of Kerala’s life and makes the state very green. The Western Ghats have a lot of biodiversity. Kerala has three climate regions—rugged and cool mountains, rolling hills, and coastal plains.

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Whimsical Pottery Turtles

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Most of what the potters made in their village near New Delhi, India was practical or religious (about 85% according to my guide). However, the remaining items were whimsical, fun, decorative, or impractical items. These turtles caught my eye as cute little additions for a shelf.

Bonus photography tip: Notice how the turtles are not centered in the frame? Picture a grid with four lines-two horizontal and two vertical. It is often ideal to place the most important part of an image at the intersection of two of those lines-or slightly off center.

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A Pottery Assembly Line

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I recently posted about a pottery village I visited on the outskirts of Delhi, India. In this village, most of the pottery for the city and elsewhere was made. We got to see a number of potters working. They go so fast! At one stop (pictured above), one worker started with the lump of clay and got the base made and then passed it on to the next potter who did the upper half work on it. It was a fast assembly line. They worked in a very small, dark room, surrounded by clay and lit only by the light coming in the doors.

We also got to try our hand at the potter’s wheel and it was a good thing we had help! Clay went flying, pots got misshapen and none of them turned out high quality. It was fun though.

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Qutab Minar in Delhi

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These are the stone screens (or arches) at Qutab Minar in Delhi, India. They were built by Qutbuddin Aibak, the first sultan in the Mamluk or Slave Dynasty, who reigned from 1206-1210. It’s called the Slave Dynasty because the sultans, including Aibak, were slaves prior to becoming sultans. Aibak only ruled for 4 years. He ended up dying during a polo match when his horse fell and the saddle impaled him! He also built the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque at the Qutab Minar and started the Minar itself.

These are giant (16 m high) stone arches that are intricately carved in patterns. Aibak (and the other Mamluk Dynasty sultans) was a Muslim and wanted these decorated in an Islamic style. However, the craftsmen working on them were Hindus and had no experience with carving more Islamic designs. These arches were more flowing, with lots of curves, vines, and elements of nature. Iltumish, a later sultan, brought in carvers from Iran when he expanded the arches, so that the designs would be Islamic (meaning more geometric) rather than Hindu in nature. Later, Alauddin planned to build even more arches, but never finished them.

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A Pottery Village in Delhi

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In February 2015, I arranged a tour of a pottery village for members of a group I belonged to in Delhi, India. On the outskirts of the city, people made most of the pottery for the city. Older workers passed down their skills to the younger generations.

Here is an excerpt from my journal of the the tour:

“So five of us headed off to western Delhi to explore the largest pottery village in Asia. There are 750 families living in the village if I remember my numbers correctly and all of them make pottery. 15% are decorative or “fun” pottery items and 85% are more traditional or practical items. At Diwali, each family makes thousands of diyas—the small, shallow clay candle holders.

All the pottery I have seen sold around Delhi comes from this village it turns out. They sell it wholesale to vendors who then sell it in markets and on street corners to anyone needing pots. We were allowed to buy directly from the families we saw working and I bought a few teeny tiny vases, just big enough for one bud. They were adorable….

…The tour included stops at a number of potters’ homes. One made the tiny vases I bought. Another was a larger family who made tons of pots, some of which they painted black. Most of the pots are not painted or glazed, but a few families do paint them. One stop was a potters’ cooperative where a group came together to work. Each family in the village has their own kiln and only runs it when it is full. This makes turn around time a bit slower. Our guide mentioned that if families shared kilns and all worked to fill the same kiln, they’d have faster production times…”

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Clock Towers and the Do You Edit? Question

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This clock tower is in the center of Sardar Market in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. It is about a century old and was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in the early 1900s. Ghanta ghar, as it is called in Hindi, offers wonderful views of the market and city. It is definitely worth climbing up for photos. Jodhpur is known as the blue city and is home to Mehrangarh Fort.

This photo made me think about editing and how much one should or should not edit. With travel photos, I try to do minimal edits and keep it as close to what I saw as possible. I’ll adjust white balance to make the color more true to life (different lighting can add a color cast on a photo) and straighten or crop. My debate with this photo was whether or not to remove the wire stretching across the shot. I decided to keep it. What do you think? Is removing something from a travel photo ok or not? In what scenarios?