Friday, December 30, 2011

The Old and the New: Top 11 of 2011 - Viewer's choice

Last year, I posted the Top 20 + 10 Viewer's Choice of 2010 from the Mira Terra Images archive. The popularity of some of those has continued throughout this year, while many new images made their way into the rankings, based on views by YOU, the internet public. As I noted last year, what's interesting about this list is that it doesn't reflect the most licensed, sold, or published images; and perhaps it more accurately reflects a list of images which ranked highest in Google search results. Only one of these Viewer's Choices was actually taken in 2011, and it hit and held the #1 spot for most of the year. Here are the TOP 11 Most Viewed Images in 2011 - 10 of your choice, and 1 of mine:

10 - Young Peruvian Boy, PERU

9 - London Eye Capsule, UNITED KINGDOM

8 - Architecture of Brasilia, BRAZIL

7 - Maasai Beadwork & Crafts, KENYA

6 - Estonian Teens, ESTONIA

5 - Guatemalan Textiles, GUATEMALA

4- Chinese Girl in Traditional Dress, CHINA

3 - Ladies & Llamas, PERU

2 - Moroccan Mosaic Detail, MOROCCO


1 - Monk at Wangdu Phodrang Dzong, BHUTAN

Here's where I get to tie it all together with my end-of-year mantra "Out with the Old, in with the New", and share how images speak to me. Look again at the #1 most popular image by viewer's choice - pictured is a monk walking through a gate, wrapping up his robe and heading away from the camera. What I see in this image is the end of a year, the work accomplished, and the wisdom gained. Reflecting upon the challenges met and lessons learned of 2011, it's time to wrap it up and move on. Thus, Out with the old.

Enter, MY #1 PHOTOGRAPHER'S CHOICE (personal favorite) IMAGE OF 2011:

 Young Monk of BHUTAN

Pictured is a young monk, skipping innocently through a gate, and heading toward the camera. What I see in this image is the beginning of a year, embracing a new path ahead, and a readiness to engage with circumstances yet unknown. Thus, In with the new

THANK YOU all for your interest and support of Mira Terra Images - 2011 was a record year of image sales and licenses that began with this AAA Magazine Cover of Machu Picchu, and continued with my debut as Photo Editor for Travcoa's 2012 World Traveler's Dream Book, right through to a recent appearance of this image of a Terra Cotta Warrior Horse which adorned a booth and print literature at WTM Travel Mart in London. Moving in to the new year, 2012 kicks off with this image of Talinn by Sea published in Jan/Feb issue of AFAR magazine. And there's still more coming to print out there so keep reading those tiny photo credits - you may spot them before I do!

THANK YOU also for your engagement with my travel blog - your TOP 10 FAVORITE BLOG POSTS are listed in the sidebar to the right ->.  My personal favorite post of 2011, while we're at it, should come as no surprise. It's the one titled: Travel Photography Nirvana (illustrated with images from Bhutan).  Check it out, you'll find there another of my favorite images -  a young monk blissfully skipping in a field of prayer flags. I imagine that boy is still skipping his way into the New Year, and that's the vision I choose to carry forward with me for 2012.


Peace and Pleasant Journeys,


Love travel photos? Be sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox every Thursday, and Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's A Small and Festive World

"Dear Santa,
What I want for Christmas is a doll from It's A Small World.  No, make that ALL the dolls from It's a Small World. Or just one doll with all the costumes from It's A Small World. Whatever works, I think you get the picture."

Oh the big dreams we have as little kids.  That was one of mine, and though I never did get any of the dolls from It's A Small World, I still enjoy visiting them at Disneyland every year for the holidays.

"It's a Small World" is to credit for being an early inspiration for me,  fueling my desire to travel the world and discover the many different peoples and cultures represented with the colorful costumes and brightly painted scenes of far away places. As an adult having traveled to many of these places, I now appreciate it all the more.

So, in honor of Disney's power to inspire, and the "Festive" theme of today's #Frifotos on twitter, I present, in photos,

The far away places....

The costumes of culture...

And....the magic of SNOW and Sleeping Beauty's Castle....


For more festive photos of Disney Holiday Magic, check out:

The 12 Lights of Christmas


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cats, Cameras, and Caring Less

So it's "BIG CAT" week at National Geographic. As much as I'd love to say "big deal', I do hold a certain fascination for these creatures, and I respect those photographers and filmmakers who spend weeks and months with the big cats to fill a good hour episode. I watch with awe and envy. I know what goes into every frame, and what it takes to get the shot that tells the story.

My own experience with cats and cameras, however, is not so glamorous. I've spent some time on safari and have learned a great deal about these cats, and I can tell you this much -

Cats couldn't care less about cameras. They couldn't care less about people with cameras, too. It doesn't matter if it's a cat person with the camera, or a filmmaker, or an idiot. The cat couldn't care less.

I have many friends who are cat people. They post silly pictures on facebook of their cat asleep in the sun or looking pissed off about something. When I go to their homes, I am overwhelmed with smell of cats. The cats, however, are nowhere to be seen, they couldn't care less that I've arrived after a long absence. They couldn't care less about a lot of things, and well, cats are just like that.

I'm not really a cat person in my every day life. When I come home from my travels, I actually like to know I've been missed. The pets I own physically rush to the door, wag their tails like helicopters, and smother me with affection. They're called dogs. There is no doubt in my mind how they feel about me. They care.

I can appreciate cats, however, especially if they are really big and live in the wild. When I observe cats in the wild through the lens of my camera, even the smell doesn't bother me. I watch long enough, and soon find myself reading their every thought (click). I get into their minds (click), and really connect in ways that I never experience with other people's kitty cats (click, click, click). And you know what I've learned? Cats couldn't care less. (delete, delete, delete).

Cats love to torment (click). Cats love to play games (click, click). Exactly what they gain from these games is nothing more than the satisfaction of having proven that they care not about anyone or anything other than themselves (delete). They certainly don't care if I've got the right lens on (delete), or need to change the battery (delete), or only have 3 frames left on the memory card (delete all? press OK to confirm).

Hang on, cats. I'm not going to let you off that easy. I can still get in your mind through my lens, remember? My camera is able to freeze a split second of your life, and even though in every frame your "I couldn't care less" subtext remains clear and consistent, there can be more to the story, and more to reading your thoughts, too. Well, at least this much more: "it's all about me."

Case and point: During a recent safari in the Maasai Mara, we happened upon a pair of lions laying in the grass. While the male was lost in his "all about me" thoughts, the female quite clearly "couldn't care less" about the male; she had something else on her mind.

With absolutely no concern for the fact that I still had a telephoto lens stuck to my camera, the lioness came right to the tree which stood literally within arm's reach of our vehicle.  She could care less about the vehicle being there, and she could care even less that I was fumbling for a different lens in anticipation of what she might do next.  Nope, she showed no consideration whatsoever, it was "all about her", and up the tree she leapt.

Turns out this was more than just a display to express how much she didn't care about my getting the shot with the right lens. At least, up in the tree, she was again distant enough that I could fit the cat entirely in the frame. She made quite a show of finding just the right spot to settle.
"now what...."
Remember what I mentioned earlier? That bit about cats loving to torment and play games? Turns out that is exactly what she was up to. I mean, why else would she bother fighting gravity to get herself up in that tree?
"oh good, this'll show him...."
"I don't care that it's extremely uncomfortable...I look good"

Well yes, lioness, of course you look're in a tree and surrounded by wildlife paparazzi! But I have news for you, dear cat. As far as my camera is's not "all about you".
Cue the male.


"That B*#@%!!!!"
The photos tell the story. Cats couldn't care less. Cats love to torment. Cats live in an "all about me" world. But maybe, just maybe, they might actually care that there's a camera around.
"Are you looking at moi??"


More about cats:

Killer Cats of Kwandwe

Tharu, Rice, Tigers, Grass

African Wildlife Photo Gallery

Dedicated to the memory of Sacha, a cat who exemplified the essence of caring less. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

UPDATED: Win 2 tickets to the Tournament of Roses Parade, hotel & more!


UPDATE: The sponsor (YMT Vacations) has extended the offer to be redeemable for EITHER this year (December 30, 2011 - January 3, 2012) OR next year (December 29, 2012 - January 2, 2013), so you can take your pick and plan ahead! 
It's that time of year, when Passports With Purpose conducts the annual fundraiser organized by travel bloggers that raises money for deserving non-profits throughout the world. It's a wonderful way to give back to the places we, as travelers, visit.

This year, Room to Read was chosen as the 2011 beneficiary of Passports with Purpose. The goal is to raise $80,000 to build two libraries in southern and eastern Zambia. Wow, that sounds ambitious, right? After last year's target of $50,000 was surpassed by over 25% and an entire village was built in India in partnership with Friends of LAFTI, clearly this community of travel bloggers and PWP founders are not content to rest on any laurels.  We love to travel, we love to blog about it, we love reading blogs, we love reading books, and we can't imagine what our lives would be without the gift of reading. But perhaps above all, we love the idea of bringing the gift of reading to others.

In my last post, I shared the story of how I found the room to read on the floor of an orphanage in Calcutta, with children climbing all over my lap to stare at the words on the pages and listen to my voice. I realized right then and there just how powerful the gift of reading can be, and I hope that you will take just a moment to share in my reading with purpose.

Read it? Good. Now you're set with inspiration to help make a difference, too. And that means, it's time to talk prizes!

Here's how it works:

Each participant blogger provides a prize and blogs about it. You can find the complete list of the prizes at Passports With Purpose website. Between now and December 16, 2011, for each $10 in donations that you make to Room to Read, you will be entered to win the prize (or prizes) of your choice.

Thanks to the generous folks at YMT Vacations, whom I've had the pleasure of working with over the past year, I am thrilled to present....


5-Day Tournament of Roses Parade and Los Angeles Tour

 Tour Includes  (for 2 people)

  • 4 nights accommodations based on twin/double occupancy in a luxurious Los Angeles Airport area hotel.
  • Rose Parade viewing from reserved Grand Stand seats, complimentary YMT seat cushion & an official Rose Parade program.
  • Exclusive evening of behind the scenes float viewing at the Pasadena Rosemont Pavilion.
  • Los Angeles City tour including Beverly Hills, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, & the home of the Academy Awards, the Kodak Theatre.
  • The service of a professionally trained and accredited tour driver/guide who is licensed, bonded, and insured. 
  • Baggage handling for one 50-lb. bag p/p.
  • Taxes and Fees of $149 per/person.

    Tour Dates:  December 30, 2011 - January 3, 2012 OR December 29,  2012 - January 2, 2013

    Tour starts and ends in Los Angeles, California

    Important Stuff:

    * The Rose Parade only happens once a year, so this prize is only valid for either of the dates indicated: December 30, 2011 - January 3, 2012 OR December 29, 2012 through January 2, 2013

    *Airfare to and from Los Angeles is NOT included, and is sole responsibility of winner.

    So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to Passports With Purpose Donation Page to make your $10 donation via paypal and enter to win before midnight, December 16, 2011.  Winners will be announced on December 23, 2011.  Good luck!