Nia Haf Photography

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Another New Years Post

It’s that time of year again, when a ‘year in review’ post hits the site and I promise to do all manner of things that are truthfully best stored in the pipeline-plans-pile. So lets break with tradition and leave new years resolutions out of this one and just take a look at some of my favourite images from 2016 and the plans that are airtight enough to mention!

I’m not ashamed to say that other than two main photographic trips this year, I really didn’t shoot that much in between. Other than the odd trip to the beach or a ramble through the Cornish countryside where my camera made an appearance, much of my time was consumed by working and saving towards a big trip in 2017. The determination and hard work throughout this year has paid off though and on the 1st of March I will be heading out to Brisbane, Australia on a working holiday visa. I’ll be back for my sister’s wedding in August and will be continuing the trip with a oneway ticket to Melbourne (854 miles south of my Brisbane starting point).

Regrettably, this trip means that Scott and I will be saying goodbye (for now) so we can both pursue our own individual ambitions. The plan is set in stone with my visa granted and flights booked but the rest is a mystery at the moment, though I have a sort of bucket list forming including a birthday skydive, watching Humpbacks in Hervey Bay in July and driving the Great Ocean Road (to name but a few). I’m also hoping to visit a couple of other countries ‘that side of the world in between further visa applications, although for now I will file these ideas with the new years resolutions in the ‘pipeline-plans-pile’.

So, photographically I suppose the year began with a five week trip to Nepal. During my time there I experienced watching wild rhinos, elephants and crocodiles in their natural jungle environment. I also worked on a story exploring the controversial topic of domesticated elephants in Sauraha. The project challenged me to be confident in my communication skills and controlling the process of capturing a portrait nonverbally, as the majority of those photographed spoke very little English. It was also a challenge to be confident enough to stand next to a three ton elephant!

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‘My name is Mohon and this is Gulap Kali. She is 50 years old. She had a calf but it died when it was young. I have been a Mahout for 15 years, my father before me was a rider and my son is now a rider too.’ The profession of Mahout being passed down through generations is not unusual in Sauraha, having grown up alongside elephants the transition to Mahout is natural for many.

I was also fortunate enough to be in Kathmandu when two major Religious festivals took place; Holi and Maha Shivaratri. Both were completely different from one and other yet equally unforgettable. Photographing during Shivaratri was an overwhelming and expensive experience (as every Holy man will ask for a donation for a photograph). The crowd was immense and the offers to watch Holy Men mutilate their genitals (for a large fee of course) was a little disturbing, to say the least. Despite the surreality of it all, it really was unmissable and those who I stopped to chat with were friendly and welcoming despite my obvious touristy appearance. Holi, however, was an unequivocal pleasure to photograph, other than worrying about ruining my camera with copious amount of powdered paint and water of course. People were willing to be photographed for free, the crowds were a little more dispersed throughout the city and everyone was fully clothed (mostly).  The ease of photographing gave me the opportunity to head back to my hostel and devise a strategy for a different, less candid approach. I headed out later in the evening to collect more controlled portraits of Holi revellers in a bold, yet still playful style.

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As part of my trip to Nepal I travelled to Phulkharka in the North Dhading Distrist where I explored the impact of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake on rural communities. This was my first real experience of working alongside a ‘fixer’ and the process of organising the excursion. Although preparing for every eventuality, the proceedings went remarkably smoothly and before I knew it I was camping beneath the stars in rural Nepal. The people I met in the remote villages were the epitome of resilience. Spending time in their homes, some of which were temporary displacement camp tents, and in their villages was an absolute privilege and something I will never forget. It was fascinating to me, having researched the relief effort after the earthquake, to hear the story from the ground- and ultimately, from the people who matter most.

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It was after Nepal that I took on my money-saving job as Head Chef in a local pub, this position brought up a whole array of new challenges which will undoubtably be invaluable to me in the coming years but as with most jobs I’ve undertaken since graduating, it came second to my passion for photography. So when my Father and I decided to embark on a photographic trip to Ireland I spent most days daydreaming about our upcoming adventure whilst juggling the demands that the busy summer months in Cornwall always throw at you. During our ten days staying on the beautiful Dingle peninsula we were granted almost perfect weather and explored the epic coast in Dad’s VW.

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We took a day whilst in Ireland to explore An Bhlascaod Mor (Great Blasket Islands). A short but exhilarating boat trip from Dingle harbour took us to the main island which was inhabited right up until 1953. The island’s rich history was somewhat overwhelming, as was the feeling of walking around the ruined houses which, after 1953, had been left to decay at the mercy of the unrelenting elements. Learning about the island, through taking a trip the Visiting centre and visiting the island itself was a fascinating and moving experience.

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Looking back, the highlights of 2016 have been just that.. high, lights; And they’ve left me wondering what 2017 will have to offer. Expect to see many posts of Australia and god knows what else while I embark on what has to be the biggest adventure of my life (so far). Oh, and a Happy New Year to everyone reading!

 

 

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