• My First Published Newspaper Photo!

    Thanks to my close friend Steven Layne Who works as a features and sports editor at the Phuket Gazette, I was able to have a photo published in his paper. I am grateful and humbled that someone would find my photography strong enough for such a purpose! The story was about the global real estate market, and it’s positive upswing in Q3 of 2013. Perhaps not the most interesting reading material, but I am really grateful to Steven for doing this. Please take the time to check out his blog www.siamerican.com where he shares insights on a wide variety of subjects from life as a dual citizen, to environmental consciousness. 

    This is the photo that was used.

    This is the photo that was used.

    Oct 26-13 pp14

    Above is a link to download a .pdf file of the article itself

  • Nepali Thali

    Thali, literally translated in Nepalese in Hindi as “plate”, is a platter of various dishes in small bowls which varies from region to region in  South Asia. The platter almost always centers on rice, dahl (lentils), and a starchy bread which is dependent upon the restaurant or region.  Other than that, the dishes can be a wide range of curries, veggies, meats, and sweet components such as yoghurt with honey.

    This particular Thali was ordered on the lakeside of Pokhara, and consisted of freshly caught fish curry, dahl, curried potatoes, mango achar (fermented pickled mango… blargh), rice, sweet fresh yoghurt and papadam, which is a flat crispy bread made with gram flour and regional spices. I am continually amazed at the cheapness of amazing food here. This was a nice restaurant on the lake, and all this food was about US $3….. haha heaven!

    untitled-4479

    According to my Nepali friend this was “OK” Thali. I thought it was amazing!

  • Wildlife Photography

    The only downside to our Pokhara adventure has been the cloudy and hazy weather, which has blocked our view of the Himalayas looming above, as well as the amazing night skies to be had here. I had been planning to use my new Nikkor 70-300mm f 4.5-5.6 VR lens to try out the methods I have been studying to capture deep space objects like the Andromeda galaxy. I purchased the lens with this in mind, and really had no idea the quality it could produce much closer to terra-firma. On a morning walk around the lake I began shooting insects and birds and was astounded at the clarity I could get from meters away. Here is a couple of the highlights. Enjoy!

  • Kathmandu To Pokhara: A Risk Vs. Reward Transaction

    In a drunken fit of brilliance and stupidity, I, along with my long lost Nepali brother Swayambhu made a pact. We would drive his 1 speed scooter from Kathmandu to Pokhara at the base of the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. I have been witness to more than a handful of such intoxicated plans and promises, and am old enough to know they rarely come to fruition. Well, this time was a marvelous exception to that rule.  We christened our abiding beast before venturing off.

    DSC_3548

    Say hello to Black Stallion

    Having spent the past two days reacquainting myself with the intricacies and complete lack of order inherent on Nepali roads, I was sure this was journey would be no less than death defying. Coming over the pass out of the Kathmandu was dusty, rough and winding.

    DSC_3579

    Definitely a no passing zone, but you’d be surprised what happens.

    The distance from Kathmandu to Pokhara is roughly 200 kilometers, and at these speeds we would be arriving next morning! Thankfully the initial mountain pass was by far the roughest stretch of road, due to it’s daily abuse by overloaded Tata Trucks with zero regard for road safety.

    If you read closely you will see it’s inscribed “Love the neighbor, but not the well-driving”. A rather unsettling mistranslation.

    The fun really started when the highway opened up and people could let their feet hang heavy on the gas pedals. Passing became a constant game of Chicken, and were the newborn chicks compared to 30 seater buses vying to shave that precious 30 seconds off their arrival times.

    Totally safe.

    After getting accustomed to the extremely safe driving habits of my brother Swayambhu, and adjusting the 40 pound backpack full of camera gear on my back. I began actually enjoying the ride. The scenery on this highway is indescribably beautiful.

    DSC_3594

    This was not a unique view. Just taken going 80km/h hanging off the back of the scooter.

    If I haven’t said this yet, it should be noted that a journey such as this is absolute hell on your back, legs, ass….. whole body really. So about three hours in and less than halfway, we stopped at a riverside town for some deep fried local treats. I would normally be reticent to even touch fish or prawns in Nepal, but these were fresh out of the river.

    DSC_3649

    Deep fried is best fried.

    With a belly full of unquestionably delicious and satisfying food, we prepared for the hours that awaited us ahead. The views just got increasingly more beautiful the further we got into the steep valleys.

    DSC_3822

    No words. They should have sent a poet.

    The kilometer markers seemed to get progressively farther apart, and what once was 20 km became 10.  The soreness became more and more apparent as we passed small town settings that would be right at home hundreds of years ago.

    DSC_3598

    This is home…. For someone that likely considers themselves blessed.

    The sun began to fade behind the all-surrounding mountains. And any hope of reaching Pokhara before dark was lost. We stopped at a place to have a smoke and rest our legs. 

    DSC_3846

    It really was that color. Stupidly gorgeous.

    There are no photos of the last 50 km or so, I’ll just suffice to say that they were dark, scary, and rainy. It was not a fun hour, but I would not have traded it for the world. I say this because after a restful night’s sleep, I awoke to this.

    DSC_3889

    Good Morning Pokhara!

     

  • Som Dtum Tai (Green Papaya Salad) with Deep Fried Mackerel and Sticky Rice

    Som Dtum

    Any trip to Thailand would be remiss without having at least one plate of Som Dtum. Som Dtum literally translated means “pounded sour” with the word “dtum” being onomatopoeia for the sound created by the mortar and pestle when the dish is being prepared. As with many of the world’s greatest dishes, Som Dtum began as a peasant food, which used the limited range of ingredients available in the region. Thailand is world renowned for utilizing very intense and contrasting flavors, and Som Dtum encompasses nearly all these flavors into a concentrated salad that is absolutely bursting with flavor. There are as many versions of Som Dtum as their are villages in Thailand, and some can be far too strong for the typical western palate. These more “fragrant” versions use ingredients such as fermented crab (Bpu Kem) and fermented fish paste (Pla Ra). These ingredients are an extremely acquired taste, one I am definitely yet to acquire. The most popular version amongs foreign travelers is Som Dtum Tai, and will be the focus here. DSC_2744  Som Dtum is traditionally eaten with glutinous rice (sticky rice) which is eaten by hand and used to soak up the liquids that come from the salad. Another popular accompaniment is Gai Yang, which is Thailand’s answer to barbecued chicken. I chose to buy some fresh mackerel from the local street market and deep fry it to accompany my plate. What follows is a recipe for Som Dtum Tai. Some ingredients may be rather difficult to acquire depending where you are. Green papayas in particular are quite uncommon, and can be substituted by green mango, or even cucumber.  

    Som Dtum Tai
    Serves 4
    Sweet, Sour, Savory, Spicy
    Write a review
    Print
    Prep Time
    30 min
    Cook Time
    5 min
    Total Time
    35 min
    Prep Time
    30 min
    Cook Time
    5 min
    Total Time
    35 min
    143 calories
    26 g
    0 g
    4 g
    4 g
    1 g
    318 g
    558 g
    18 g
    0 g
    3 g
    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size
    318g
    Servings
    4
    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 143
    Calories from Fat 34
    % Daily Value *
    Total Fat 4g
    6%
    Saturated Fat 1g
    3%
    Trans Fat 0g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
    Monounsaturated Fat 2g
    Cholesterol 0mg
    0%
    Sodium 558mg
    23%
    Total Carbohydrates 26g
    9%
    Dietary Fiber 5g
    19%
    Sugars 18g
    Protein 4g
    Vitamin A
    53%
    Vitamin C
    243%
    Calcium
    5%
    Iron
    7%
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
    Ingredients
    1. 1 pound green papaya
    2. 2 Thai chilies (add more pepper if you want it hotter!)
    3. 1 large clove of garlic
    4. 2 strings long bean ( or green beans, cut into 1 inch lengths)
    5. 3 tablespoon roasted peanut
    6. 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
    7. 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
    8. 2 tablespoons lime juice
    9. 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
    10. 1 teaspoon chopped dried shrimp
    Instructions
    1. Peel the papaya.
    2. Holding the papaya vertically, contniually tap with a sharp knife while spinning the papaya to create vertical incisions.
    3. Using a vegetable peeler, peel downwards to create thin shreds of papaya.
    4. Quarter the cherry tomatoes.
    5. Thinly slice the thai chilis (wear gloves to avoid getting any on your hands).
    6. Toast the peanuts in a dry skillet on high heat until slightly scorched.
    7. Put all the vegetables into a large mortar an pestle and add the sugar, juice, and remaining ingredients while constantly pounding to infuse the papaya with the combined liquid.
    Notes
    1. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, a reasonable substitute is a large mixing bowl and potato masher or similar utensil.
    beta
    calories
    143
    fat
    4g
    protein
    4g
    carbs
    26g
    more
    A Taste Of The Road http://tasteoftheroad.com/
  • My New Lens. Astrophotography Awaits!

    nikon-70-300mm-vr-g-lens

    As you likely already know my interest in photography occupies much of my time (and depletes my small budget). I am particularly interested in astrophotography, and have always wanted a high quality, powerful telephoto lens. Well, my desires have been fulfilled as I came across a used, mint condition of the Nikon 70-300mm F4-5.6 VR (Vibration Reduction) lens. Retail it sells for nearly $600, but I found my new baby for about $325. With this lens I will be able, with extreme editing and study be able to produce images such as this

    download

    Stacked image of the Andromeda Galxy using the Nikon 70-300mm

    .Doing so requires patience, study and over 400 pictures compiled together using highly specialized software. Once I get to a destination with less light pollution (planning for Kathmandu to Lhasa, on the high mountain passes), I should be able to get some amazing results. I simply can’t wait to see how my knowledge of photography translates into the medium’s most challenging arena. 

    I’n the meantime, here is a photo I took in Arizona with a map depicting many different stars, constellations and Messier (deep sky) objects. Enjoy! 2013-10-16-OM3N1R

  • Thank You To All My New Readers From Reddit!

    reddit

    Just wanted to give a quick thank you to all the new readers who made it here from Reddit.com. Seeing my viewcount steadily increase due to your visits warms my little heart. If you enjoy my content please feel free to share it. I promise a lot more interesting photos and writings to come. 

  • Forays Into Portrait Photography

    My good friend Ian Campbell, better known as DJ Criminal needed some press shots for an upcoming gig. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a professional photographer, he gave me the opportunity to take a few shots. I know next to nothing about portraiture, but did my best to capture his unique style. Shooting under fluorescent light is difficult, but I think the results are passable. Please visit www.djcriminalonline.com to listen to some good hip hop/funk mixes. Enjoy!

  • The Secret Of The Abandoned Fish Mall

    Down a nondescript soi in old town Bangkok lies a relatively unknown hidden gem. Without a good knowledge of Bangkok geography, one would be hard pressed to believe anything interesting lies behind this gate.

    DSC_2078

    The posted sign reads in Thai “strictly no entrance beyond this point”

    New World shopping mall, a four storey former shopping mall. Originally constructed as an eleven storey building. It was found to be in breach of old town Bangkok’s four storey limit on building heights. The top seven floors were demolished to adhere to building codes in 1997. In 1999 the mall burned due to suspected arson committed by a competitor in the area. The disaster resulted in several casualties, and the building has remained abandoned ever since. Not having a roof, the basement floor remains under several feet of water year round. 

    At some point in the early 2000’s an unknown person began introducing a small population of exotic Koi and Catfish species. The small population of fish began to thrive and the result is now a self-sustained, and amazingly populated urban aquarium. I will not tell exactly where it is, as locals somewhat discourage people visiting it. In fact we had to wait for a policeman who was parked on his motorcycle in front of the gate to leave before we timidly entered. Below are a few pictures to give you an idea of the absolutely staggering amount of fish. Enjoy! and if you are really curious as to where it is located, you can email me at jesserockwell26@gmail.com

  • The Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Graphic Content)

    Serendipity once again struck me in my travels, as I have arrived in Thailand during one of the most unique, and to some, discomforting festivals in the world. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival. This festival takes it’s roots from Chinese history and mythology, but is unique to Thailand, and experiences it’s zenith in Phuket, where it took it’s current form in the early 1800’s.

    Although conflicting accounts as to it’s origin exist, most agree it was the result of political maneuvering in Phuket in 1825. During this time the capitol of Phuket was located in Thalang district, but the current governor of Thalang district decreed that the capitol was to be relocated to Kathu District. The main reason for this was the abundance of Chinese tin mines and a resulting nascent economy. Although Kathu was still covered in dense forest at the time, the governor foresaw great things for the area.

    During this period a travelling Chinese Opera traveled to Kathu to entertain the tin miners. At or around this time a terrible epidemic of fever and death was overtaking the mining community. The Opera singers however, never fell ill. The miners, desperate for a cure sought advice from the traveling performers, who informed the miners of their strict adherence to a vegetarian diet. The miners proceeded to strictly adhere to this diet, as well as abstain from alcohol, sex and killing of animals for food (doesn’t sound like too much fun). The epidemic quickly vanished, and was cause for great celebration. Thus occurred the birth of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. The locals, so thrilled with their newfound health sent an envoy to Kansai, in China. The envoy returned with holy incense and inscribed tablets. Two objects that still feature heavily in the modern day processions. 

    While the modern incarnation of the festival still retains many of the original practices, the most famous (read infamous) spectacle, is the invocation of the god Lam Tao. Those who channel the deity are bestowed great abilities to withstand personal pain and mutilation. They use this power to inflict very grievous bodily harm upon to themselves, which they shoulder in order to lessen the suffering of those around them. These displays are not for the weak of heart, and cause some people to be repulsed and even physically ill.

    Below you will find some photos that may disturb you, you have been warned.