Wanderlust | Part 6

Wanderlust | Part 6

[For the backstory on these photos, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5]

Our entire reason for visiting Kyrgyzstan, was to secure visas into China. Arriving late at night, we woke early next morning and headed to Miss Lu - apparently the only person capable of securing us Chinese visas from the nearby embassy.

Sitting in Miss Lu’s office, we completed the paperwork (always paperwork in these countries) and handed over our passport photos. Miss Lu looked at Jane’s photo and said “good photo, no problems”.

Miss Lu then looked at my photo and the following dialogue ensued:

Miss Lu: “This photo no good. Big problem for you”

Me: “Why? What’s wrong with this photo?”

ML: “You have beard. The Chinese will think you look like Al-qaeda”

Me: “What? I’m a caucasian male with Australian nationality”

ML: “You may not get a visa for China. Come back in 5-days”

After handing over a wad of US dollars, we walked out into the cobalt blue day and pondered what to do for the next few days.

As luck would have it, a pretty decent mountain range wasn’t far away and after a visit to a local map shop, we found a red dashed marked route over an alpine pass. We had no real idea what condition the route was in, but figured let’s go and have a look. The trip turned into a 3-night, 4-day trip and to say getting down the back side of the pass was tough, would be an understatement. It took my years’ of track finding skills to find a route down, but we eventually reached the valley bottom and the gravel road out.

Back in Bishkek, we picked up our passports with freshly minted China visas (yeah!!!!), then headed for Osh and onto Sary Tash, a village in the Tian Shian Mountains on the border of Kyrgyzstan and China. In Sary Tash, we spent a couple of nights in a yurt, where we both picked up a stomach bug, which would stay with me for much of China. Joy.

These photos show: Driver dropping us off at the start of our alpine pass trip; Jane on day 1 of alpine pass trip; Jane packing up camp as a horseman turns up out of nowhere; climbing steep terrain to the alpine pass; Jane reading the map and our supposed route (marked in red); Jane on the pass with an electrical storm coming down the valley; Jane negotiating the way down; dinner in the valley bottom; on the road to Osh (625-km and a 13 hour day); the village of Sary Tash; locals at Sary Tash; yurt camp; eating typical cuisine in a yurt; the road to China; the last we saw of our driver at the first of many checkpoints on the way to China. After this photo, military told us to get out of the car, they turned our driver around and the guards then bundled us into the next car going to the next checkpoint. You feel pretty powerless in these situations, but often have to trust that things will turn out okay.

Next week’s post: China.

Wanderlust | Part 5

Wanderlust | Part 5

[For the back story on these photos, see: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]

Our goal in Azerbaijan had been to get a seldom scheduled cargo vessel across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan. While sitting in Baku, burning through over a $100 USD a day, we eventually decided that the time and money we were wasting trying to get on a cargo vessel across the Caspian Sea wasn’t the best use of our limited resources. We pulled the trigger and hopped a plane from Baku to Aktau, on the western edge of Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest country.

We then spent a couple of days training across the stunningly barren Kazakhstan, before arriving in Almaty. We needed two things in Almaty - a visa for China and a visa for Mongolia. After wasting two days trying to get both and with only a 30-day visa for Kazakhstan, we contacted David at Stan Tours. His advice - our only hope was to fly to Kyrgyzstan, get a visa on arrival, and see a certain Chinese lady, called Miss Lu. Don’t even bother going to the Chinese embassy.

Before flying to Kyrgyzstan, we decided to go horse riding in the nearby mountains - mainly because I was trying to convince my wife that it was a good idea to buy some horses in Mongolia and ride across the steppe for three weeks.

Her response?

“Let’s go for a short horse ride first and see if we even like it”.

These photos show: Kazakhstan sign; famous MIG Fighter in Aktau; Aktau architecture; training through the desert of Kazakhstan; train conductor’s; in train magazines - no English editions though; Mosque on a 30+ degree day; just married - random wedding encounter on the road; stunning tile work; camel ride; exploring old ruins on one of the old Silk Road Routes; mum and bubba at our horse trek guides home; drying apricots; riding into the mountains; our camp; cooking up dinner; my horse - Mr Ed - having a roll; back in Almaty and an electrical storm; foyer of a bath house - the best remedy after riding a horse for a couple of days.

Next week’s post: Kyrgyzstan

Wanderlust | Part 4

Wanderlust | Part 4

[For the back story on these photos, see Wanderlust | Part 1, Wanderlust | Part 2, Wanderlust | Part 3.]

Our goal in Georgia had been to get a visa for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is filthy rich with oil money and doesn’t care much for tourists. As a result, it isn’t easy getting a tourist visa. At the time, you needed an in-country sponsor and reams of completed paperwork, to even be considered for a tourist visa. Getting a visa for Azerbaijan was critical for us, as our goal was to travel overland to the Caspian Sea, before entering western Kazakhstan.

Courtesy of the internet grapevine, we found some advice indicating that there was a rather ‘tourist friendly’ administrator at the Azerbaijan consulate in Tbilisi. Though we still had to complete reams of paperwork, we were eventually granted our tourist visas.

We left Tbilisi on the overnight train to Baku, Azerbaijan. An old style Soviet sleeper, with the best sleeping bed I have ever slept on. It easily fitted my 6 foot, 2 inch frame, a rarity on sleeping trains.

These photos show: inside our overnight sleeper; desolate oil fields; on the road to Xinaliq, a village in the mountains near the Russian border; Xinaliq village houses; Xinaliq village and river; the family we stayed with in Xinaliq; exploring Xinaliq with our host; selfie in the hills around Xinaliq; horse riders Xinaliq; our driver and his Lada - we agreed on price, through my basic Russian and using our fingers to write numbers in the dust on his Lada’s bumper; hand washed clothes drying in Baku; Baku waterfront; polluted water at Baku waterfront; newly built apartments on our drive to the airport.

[Next week’s post - Kazakhstan]

Wanderlust | Part 3

Wanderlust | Part 3

[For the back story on these photos, see Wanderlust | Part 1 and Wanderlust | Part 2 ].

It always amazes me how something as simple as crossing a border between two countries, can represent such a huge change in the people, food and culture of a place.

That is exactly what happened when my wife and I crossed from Turkey into Georgia. Gone was the easy, clean transport of Turkey. Gone was the amazing food of Turkey, seemingly available at every cafe / restaurant. Gone was the easy to find accommodation, with helpful hosts.

While Georgia was different to Turkey, we still managed to have a great time travelling across the country, as we continued on our journey east towards China.

These photos show: Batumi on the Black Sea; lifeguards on the Black Sea; ferris wheel at night; man selling prints for $5 USD each; a Lada in action, the Central Asian vehicle of choice; myself and our driver John (his generosity was as big as him); overnight trek in the Caucasus Mountains; Tbilisi market (including real bear skins); Kazbegi village and mountain and lastly, a self portrait of two tired people, after a long day in the mountains. We are having dinner in an abandoned park, in Kazbegi village.

[Next week’s post: Azerbaijan]

Digital Memories, Technology and You

I received an email out of the blue the other day from a previous wedding client. I had photographed her wedding at the beautiful Langdale Vineyard, just west of Christchurch, some three years ago.

She was writing, as since receiving her hi-res photos on a DVD, she hadn’t actually backed them up to another device and she could no longer access the photos on the DVD (that’s the thing about DVD’s and technology - they don’t last forever).

Fortunately, I have a copy of every single wedding I have ever photographed, archived and backed up on my server. Those same photos are also stored off-site on their own hard drives, in the event my office is robbed, flooded or burns to the ground in a fire.

Put simply, I place value on photos and I take the necessary steps to ensure I will have them in decades to come. It is part of my cost of doing business and it is just one thing that separates me from any person with a camera. I can pull your photos from my archive and provide them to you, three years down the track, within 48-hours of you contacting me. There is a small fee to cover my time and hosting costs.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed there has been an enormous shift in how we take, consume and share photography in the past decade. Where we once took photos using film with relatively expensive cameras, now anyone with a phone can take a photo and share it instantly with the world, courtesy of the new printing press called the Internet.

And while that has helped make us all content creators and dare I say ‘photographers’, it has also led to a loss in the understanding of the true value of photos.

If you have photos on your digital devices and you haven’t backed them up, please back them up.

Right now.

 Holly on the dune track with her camera, New Brighton, Christchurch, New Zealand.


This photo instantly reminds me of an afternoon I spent with my daughter walking along the beach together. Captured at 1/2500 of a second, this slice of time, is a memento I will have for years to come.

Wanderlust | Part 2

Wanderlust | Part 2

[For the back story on these photos, see Wanderlust | Part 1 ].

These photos are from our time in Turkey. In order of appearance: Istanbul Turkey, the gardens of stone in Gallipoli, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, a multi-day sea kayaking trip along the stunning Turquoise Coast (huge shout out to Dean and his company Seven Capes for providing us with the gear we needed & logistical support), ballooning in Cappadocia, an old fort on one of the old Silk Road routes (near the border with Georgia). 

[Next weeks post: Georgia].

Sikh Indian Wedding Photography

Sikh Indian Wedding Photography

Received a text message just three days ago about my availability to photograph a Sikh Indian Wedding in Christchurch this Saturday. Given how colourful and different the Sikh Indian wedding ceremonies can be, I was pretty happy to find I wasn't booked with other commitments.

The first Indian wedding I photographed was back in Thailand, a country I called home for two-years. That wedding lasted four-days and was my first experience with the elaborate celebration and traditions surrounding Indian weddings. 

As a wedding photographer, Indian weddings are full of great moments to photograph. Whether it is the Mehndi, the dancing, the rituals between the families or just the wonderfully colourful clothing everyone is wearing. 

I have pulled a few photos from an Indian wedding I photographed for Ophelia & Berinder in Hua Hin Thailand, a few years' back. 

If you are planning an Indian wedding and need an Indian Wedding Photographer, then drop me a line. I'd love to discuss your wedding day photography requirements with you. Thomas.