Tag Archives: mountain

Children of Laos

Over a series of nights for the past couple of weeks I used video editing as a fun stress relief project. Teaching myself the very basics of cutting a movie, I used some of my amateurish footage from Laos. I shot this for fun handheld, never thinking I would use it but for mere memorabilia. I then thought it might make a good atmosphere for my stills and had great fun cutting this. Shot on Canon 5D Mk II, edited in Adobe Premiere. This is ‘Children of Laos’ from the very eastern part of Laos, hmong villages in the mountains close to the borders of Vietnam. I was fortunate to tag along with a journalist friend of mine on a job. Do watch this in HD and full screen, and if you like, read the story below after watching the movie.

Laos Stories

The temperature hovers around freezing. We are in the town of Nong Hat in the mountains of East Laos. Outside my window a rooster desperately tries to rise the sun at 3am. Some dogs bark and join in. I feel like doing the same as sleep is impossible. I am so cold. We are in a stone guest house with no windows only wooden shutters and it is colder inside than outside. Like the rooster I long for the sun to wake up.

When the sun finally rises we are treated to a beautiful morning. Our hostess at the guest house has the fire going in the kitchen, smoke fills the air and our nostrils. Nescafé gets my heart going again and a brisk walk on the street defrosts my bones. We are ready.

nong hat - blog

A few hours later after driving through the most splendorous mountains we arrive at our first village and school. Now, had we landed in a flying saucer, walked up with green skin, two heads and six arms and said "take us to your leader" I doubt we would have caused more commotion. These are very remote and poor villages, some of the children had never seen white fellas like us before.

I sit on the ground surrounded by children. Completely stunned by our appearance, very raw emotions from fright to thrilled flicker across their beautiful and very curious faces. My camera is the perfect ice breaker as the results shown on the back screen causes huge surprises and ecstatic joy. This repeats itself at every village, every school and I manage to capture some portraits while the children totally capture my heart.

hmong kids - blog

View many more images in my Laos gallery, here: FlemmingBoJensen.com/gallery/laos/

Laos village children portraits

Avid readers of my blog know that my big love is landscapes, the amount of images I post with humans in them can be counted on…one finger I reckon! Some people consider any image without humans boring and the standard “there are no humans” is a too-well known statement. I always say it is merely whatever floats your boat photography wise. Some like macro insects, some like sports, some like portraits, some like landscapes! I have however always liked studying the good travel- and ethno-photographers and Laos gave me an opportunity to practice.

We visited extremely remote hmong hilltribe villages and schools for my friend’s research and here I had the chance to capture some of these gorgeous children. I shot hundreds of shots, mostly because the children were of course very interested (also slightly scared) of the camera and the magic lcd screen showing them an image or video of themselves. The boys were noticeably much more shy and of course being boys, playing it detached and cool, while the girls took to the camera quite fast. I present a couple of images that I shot after the first wauv factor had worn off allowing me to get some portraits where they were unaware of the camera. Meeting the children at the schools were a mindblowing experience. These are kids who live in remote villages, some of them had never seen white people before, they have nothing, they go to school but have no text books, no pencils etc. But they are incredibly strong and gorgeous survivors full of spirit, happiness and life. They have to be strong here to live, to survive. Given the right opportunities these tough strong kids can do absolutely anything as they are used to fighting for survival everyday.

First is this gorgeous girl who absolutely loved the camera. She is not hmong, I forget the name of the tribe. She has an incredible face.

laos village girl - blog

I also attempted to catch the children playing with the amazing mountains of East Laos as backdrops. Some of these villages and schools enjoy views that are out of this world! This is a couple of hmong girls playing.

hmong girls playing - blog

My primary love will always be wide open landscapes but I really enjoyed capturing these images. For this sort of work, the versatile 24-105mm Canon L lens proved very handy. I have much to learn and would like to hear your opinion on this little venture into ethno-photography.

Layers of gold

I learned many things during our Laos trip and one of them was to really appreciate gorgeous mountains. As every reader knows by now I tend to go on (and on) about wide open dimensionless desolate flat spaces. But driving around the incredible gorgeous mountains of East Laos blew my mind. Everywhere, absolutely everywhere my eyes darted, majestic mountainscapes were present. Another added bonus of mountains and the air in these altitudes were the incredibly blue sky and simply stunning cloudscapes masterly painted onto the big big sky.

The mountains pose a challenge though, finding somewhere to shoot! Driving on a small path in a 4WD, most of the time there are bushes, trees and all sorts of stuff in front. To get a clear shot requires testing gravity or towing a really tall ladder! Or just the patience to wait for a spot to pull over where the view is unimpeded. One afternoon as the sun was low and setting we were treated to some ethereal rays of lights shining through the clouds and I created this image:

Laos mountainscape golden hour blog

This is just a single image slightly cropped. There was not always time to setup tripod and shoot stitched panos etc. The important lesson here is take what you can get. I have warmed the colours some, in the original it has a more cold cast to it but I feel perfectly fine about altering the look of a scene like this. I am attempting to create art, this is not a documentary nor photojournalism. I was able to capture the dynamic range in one raw file and then worked the image in Lightroom and Photoshop to bring out the deep in shade foreground slight and warm the colours. What do you think of the result?

Back from Laos

I have just returned to my home in Chiang Mai, Thailand after some mindblowing days in Laos. Most of the time was spent in remote hmong hilltribe villages in absolutely drop dead stunning mountain landscapes in the Xieng Khoung province. Driving through these mountains in a 4WD through stunning mountainscapes and then visiting villages so remote the kids had never met a "white fella” before. The joy, innocence, strength and laughter from these kids were moving and inspirational and hard to stop smiling and laughing. Naturally, the camera and watching themselves on the lcd screen caused a lot of stunned laughs from the kids!

I am nursing a hilltribe cold (warm in the day but at night in these mountains in a guesthouse with no heating and no windows – COLD!) so more to come later, more stories and many more images. Here’s one of the hmong tribe boys who instantly took to the camera, he tried to pose and appear in every shot:

hmong_coolkid

Lamington National Park, O’Reillys and mountain sunsets!

In the words of Powderfinger – “watching the sunset”

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One of the wonders of staying at O’Reillys – sunsets!

Yep…sunsets here on the mountain are crazy good (click the picture to see larger size) One of the two places I visited in this weeks tour was Lamington National Park south of Brisbane where I stayed at O’Reillys Guesthouse right on top of a mountain with a breathtaking view (sunset above shot from my balcony, yeah I know, pure hell living in paradise – again!)

Lamington National Park is yet another World Heritage Area for this trip, I seem to go through quite a few of them! It is about 20 500 hectares with mountains up to 1200 meters high and the park has an enormous variety of plant and animal life since the rainforest varies from temperate forest in the higher altitudes to warm subtropical rainforest in the valleys. When you walk around the park you can easily see the change in vegetation and feel the changes in temperature, in some places the changes occur from one step to the next going from rainforest to temperate forest with eucalyptus trees (that cannot survive in a rainforest) in the space of a few meters.

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Lamington National Park – view of “Luke’s Farm” area and mountains

O’Reillys is one of the two guesthouses up here in the crisp clean mountain air and was opened in 1926 by the Irish O’Reilly family. It is still run by the O’Reillys now in their third generation and has one of the friendliest and nicest staffs I’ve ever met. O’Reillys has such good bird and wild life and such a good location overlooking the mountains (all the sunset shots are from my balcony) that guests from Binna Burra (the other guesthouse) are brought here during the day in a bus to look at the birds and the view (and where they might wanna stay the next time they’re up here, bad business decision by the Binna Burra crew bringing their punters to O’Reillys!) There’s no resort feeling staying here despite the 72 rooms and the flashy website, instead it’s more like you’re private guests at the O’Reillys family house. As an introvert this took some getting used to I must admit but everyone is so incredibly friendly and like me loves nature, wildlife and usually photography as well and really treats you like you’re family. And the sunsets here are really out of this world and some of the best I have seen, really phenomenal!

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My favorite staff member is shown on the right (as always, click for larger size) with a carpet python (on a carpet haha): wildlife guide and photographer Glen Trelfo who was lived on the mountain and worked for O’Reillys for 27 years – and also filmed nature and wildlife documentaries for BBC and others. What a brilliant man, an absolute joy to talk photography with him and the great and funny stories of his many years of doing still- and video photography. He also did a snake demo where we got to experience and touch the rather large but very docile and lovely carpet python shown in the picture (I love snakes and to hold this big python was a treat). What a top bloke, so nice to meet you Glen.

From O’Reillys there are a larger number of rainforest walks you can do (either on your own or guided tours you can join) and walking in a rainforest is always interesting (remember to watch where you’re going, what you step on – and stay on the paths…extremely easy to get very very lost!). For every step there are new trees, plants and birds to observe. Photographing this 360 degree experience is hard though,  you literally cannot photograph the forest for all the trees! Here’s a few tries, many more new shots at my gallery.

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Eucalyptus trees (“gum trees” as we aussies call them)

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Big black booyong tree reaching for the sky

And after a good day of bushwalking I recommend a drink and watching the gorgeous setting sun (see below) over the mountains before the O’Reillys ring the dinner bell (they actually do this!) and it’s time for a bit of tucker!

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Randomness

  • For the Danes: I’ve been here more than 6 weeks and haven’t met a single Dane (well it’s a rather large country) so I was a bit surprised to catch this bit of conversation and very thick dialect at breakfast at O’Reillys: 
    “…deeeet’ møj’ ande’ledes!”
    Heh, There were at least 3 Danish couples some of them with their kids staying here at O’Reillys so all of a sudden it’s natural to hear “du skal komme og se fuglene” while having ‘brekky’ as we aussies call breakfast. And suddenly I had to remember whether to say “hihowyagoin” or “goddaw” – bloody confusing 😀
  • The footy finals (both AFL and Rugby is called footy) were great fun although not very exiting games. Geelong won the AFL final by more than a 100 point margin and humiliated Port Adelaide and The Melbourne Storm totally dominated Manly in the Rugby League final. The real winner was the Queensland XXXX breweries though, had quite a few of those beers during both finals! You know of course this joke already; why the beer is called XXXX (pronounced 4X) – it’s ‘cos queenslanders can’t spell ‘beer’ !
  • People named ‘Housecleaning’…not that they aren’t always very friendly and polite but…arrrrgh you annoy me. I’m sorry but do you make an effort to always clean my room while I’m in? I sleep in, you knock on my door at 8.05am…I leave early and come back at 1.30pm – you knock on the door at 1.45pm! Argggh! We clearly need to work out a schedule, ‘housecleaning’ and me! Now that we’re at it, no one in the world sleeps like that anyway – so why wrap the sheets and blankets so airtight around the entire bed? With ‘housecleaning’ out the door, you can then be sure that someone named ‘mini bar’ is knocking on your door in a few minutes! I do miss living in my own flat (although wouldn’t mind it if ‘house cleaning’ could stop by my flat, just once a week would be great! ‘Mini bar’ would actually be welcome as well – I’m such a hypocrite.)

Quote of the day:

My name is Hiro. I’m from the future.

– from the new TV show ‘Heroes’. I gotta try saying that someday when people ask “so where are you from?”. I’m from the future!