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An Amazon Portfolio

In April, 2007 together with world famous photographer Jay Maisel, colour management expert Andrew Rodney, and naturalist Fiona Reid, I lead an expedition workshop on a riverboat on the Amazon.

This page contains photographs which I look during this trip, and anecdotes as well as technical commentary related to each. It will be updated regularly during May and June, 2007.

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An Article titled
The Amazon – What Worked and What Didn't
is also available.

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Through The Window – April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

I suppose that many photographers are also voyeurs. 'Tis the nature of the beast. I know that I find the view through windows from a passing train or car window to be endlessly fascinating. Here, our ship was moored at a small marina, and through a 400mm lens I spotted this bird completing a geometric puzzle.

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100% Jesus – April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

Life on the Amazon centers around boats – every type of boat from canoes to ferries. This passenger ship was docked in Manaus harbour waiting to take on passengers. The colour contrasts, graphic simplicity, and intriguing text were captivating.

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Marinha Do Brazil – April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

We moored our ship at a marina to take on provisions for our expedition, and while the loading was going on I noticed this half sunken ship in the water beside us. Why and how it had become derelict remains unknown, but not speaking Portuguese I was amused to be told only after a large print of this image was hanging in my gallery that Marinha Do Brazil means, Brazilian Navy.

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Amazon Water Lilly – April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

Mo, our ships captain, said that he wanted to show us some large water lillys. After arriving at the location he asked one of his crew to show us what one looked like from underneath. It took a machete to cut the stalk. Amazonian understatement.

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Ripples. Amazonia – April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

Ripples behind the canoe, just before sunset. The black water of the Rio Negro acts as an almost perfect mirror, and with the clouds in the right position and the light at the right angle, fascinating patterns emerge.

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Plant and Pollen River. Amazonia – April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 200

After motoring up a pollen swirled river, as seen below, when we reached the foot of a small cascade, where we had lunch and a swim, what we saw was that the pollen had collected in a backwater to such an extent that it created an almost solid mass – appearing to be drifting snow or marble. Quite amazing, as is the perspective distortion that this image displays.

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Lolita – Amazonia, April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

Remarkably, our exploration of the Amazon river system in small motorized canoes provided some fascinating opportunities to photograph people who live on the river, many of them in floating houses right on the river itself. Whereas one can often walk through small towns and villages in various countries, observing, interacting and photographing people as they go about their lives, on the Amazon where the jungle is largely impenetrable, and the rivers are the main means of transport, boats become the platform for interaction.

In one area we visited a village moored to the banks of the river and I photographed this young woman (girl) standing in a doorway. Her posture, smile and gaze are at once provocative and innocent, and her beauty undeniable. This was not posed, though she was obviously aware that she was being photographed. The moment though was fleeting.

We found the people of Amazonia to be universally warm, welcoming, and unhesitant about having their photographs taken.

Update: The title of this photograph (Lolita), not the image iself, turned out to be controversial. A short essay on this nonsense is now online.

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Underwater. Amazonia. April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 200

I could explain this photograph. But I won't. There's no need. It isn't about anything, yet it is about whatever you think it is. A description might be mundane or redundant. Sometimes photographs simply are.

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Leaf and Pollen. Amazonia. April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

Mo, our ship's captain, suggested that we take the motorized canoes up a narrow river which lead to a small cascade where we could camp and have a BBQ lunch. Sounded fine. But what astonished us was the remarkable patterns formed in the river by some form of pollen. Swirls of white micro-bubbles created a myriad of geometric patterns in the black water. A photographic wonderland.

This image shows a leaf being moved by some unseen current, dragging itself across the surface and creating tire tracks in the foam.

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Sunken Boat – Amazonia. April, 2007
Leica M8 with 28mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 @ ISO 160

Because of the name of the web site people assume that I am a landscape photographer. Yes, I am, but my world is not limited to just the grand landscape. Anything and everything in the natural and man-made world is potential subject matter, and I am always on the lookout for the ironic, juxtapositions, and enigmas.

This partially sunken boat, stranded in an also sunken forest, was ideal grist for my mill. For me it encapsulated the challenges of the Amazon – the forces of nature; man sometimes in harmony with the natural world, and sometimes subdued by it.

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Boats and Rain – Amazonia, Brazil. April, 2007
Leica M8 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux @ ISO 320

What do you do when you're in a canoe on the Amazon, an hour or more from your ship, and a torrential rain starts? Head for the local marina, of course. Yes – there are marinas on the Amazon. The local fisherman have to get gas somewhere, right? This is the 21st century after all.

This group of half drowned canoes struck my fancy, with their rain-softened pastel colours and random positioning.

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Frond Reflection – Amazonia, Brazil. April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 1250

Photography in the jungle is tough. It's dark, confusing, messy, close, and – oh yes, did I mention that it's dark? On one occasion some of our group set off for a jungle hike and I declined, saying that I'd rather do some shooting from the canoes. I added that I thought that it was impossible to do any worthwhile photography in the jungle (except maybe for wildlife and macro). I was scoffed at, but had the dubious pleasure of being told afterwards that I was right. (If you've ever done some great photography in the jungle itself– good for you. I haven't.)

But shooting from a canoe one is able to use reflections to achieve some symmetry, which adds a certain order and structure. And when turned sideways, as this one is, the whole thing becomes an abstraction and thus even more interesting (or confusing).

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Drowned Trees – Amazonia, Brazil. April, 2007
Canon 1Ds MKII with 100-400mm L IS lens @ ISO 400

The Amazon and its tributaries rises and falls more than 30 feet over the year. The forests that are submerged can survive up to six months under water, but in the late 1980's there was a period of three years when the water levels remained high in some regions, and several large forests were drowned.

We explored one of these in our motorized canoes one evening, but the light was flat and so we moored our riverboat nearby to see what the morning light would bring.

The sky was clear the next morning before dawn and we headed back to the forest eagerly looking forward to some spectacular light. It was not to be. Well before the sun crested the horizon clouds had rolled in, and the light was no better than the evening before.

Just as we were cursing our luck, a fog bank rolled in out of the higher nearby jungle and within minutes the drowned forest became a remarkable feast of visual opportunities.

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Tower Sitting – Amazonia, Brazil. April, 2007
Leica M8 with 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH @ ISO 320

On the last day of the trip, returning to Manaus for a farewell party and then flights home, we stopped just at sunrise at a small island in the middle of the river. Ostensibly the purpose was to stretch our legs on the sandy beach and also to look at a fisherman's cemetery with its picturesque blue crosses.

But a bit further down the beach from the cemetery was this hand-made tower, with fisherman watching the river ready to alert their colleagues in boat that a school of fish had entered the nets.

The warm light of sunrise on the cloud layer was all that was needed to complete the composition.

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Concepts: Amazon River, Manaus, Amazon, Amazon Rainforest, River, Photography, Brazil, Rio Negro

Entities: Manaus, Brazil, Amazon, Brazilian Navy, Michael Reichmann

Tags: canoes, photographs, boat, jungle, small, small cascade, black water, marinas, half sunken ship, small motorized canoes, image, higher nearby jungle, large water lillys, rain-softened pastel colours, picturesque blue crosses, potential subject matter, pollen, Amazon river, fisherman, jungle hike, passing train, Amazonian understatement, passenger ship, geometric puzzle, car window, technical commentary, right angle, torrential rain, narrow river, forest, tributaries rises, oh yes, perspective distortion, small marina, spectacular light, young woman, sunken boat, BBQ lunch, right position, photography