Read Jeff Blumenfeld’s story on our expedition, along with my photographs, in The Active Times!
I’ve put up some galleries from the expedition, one of my art photos and one documenting the camps and the ORV team. Have a look!
My Best of Mustang Gallery has some experiments in HDR landscape, macro photography, and, as always, portraits of the beautiful people of Mustang. Here’s some samples:
The Gift of Sight Gallery includes shots of the camps, our expert ORV team sporting their very fetching Sherpa Gear sponsored outfits, and some behind the scenes of my production team at work! Samples:
Hope you enjoy… and if you do, please do subscribe to my Flickr or shoot a ‘Like’ to Skyship Films on facebook!
We’re back – and our whirlwind mission is at an end. All told we saw about 700 patients and restored sight to about 30 people… not bad for less than a week of work. We rode out on horseback from Marpha to Jomsom, with the dust puffing around our horse’s hooves and the sun setting over Nilgiri peak. The next day, we managed to catch the first flight out despite troublesome weather… a few bottles of apple brandy slipped into the right hands guaranteed our seats.
Back in Pokhara, we washed up and headed to the monastery to finish shooting interviews with the team. We arrived back at the hotel around 5 and found a final patient waiting for us – a 10-year-old boy Scott had encountered some years back. His striking heterochromia is the result of trauma to his left eye – though it is actually still brown, the scar tissue built up around it breaks up the light and causes it to appear blue, or, in medical speak: “The blue appearance is a result of backscatter of incident light by stromal collagen fibres.”
The local eye hospital hasn’t been able to help him, but Sanjay took a close look and thought there might be potential, if not to completely restore his vision, at least to improve it. They’re seeking his hospital records today, and then we’ll see what’s possible.
The local press met us for dinner and interviewed Scott and the team, then I joined our guide Alok and Doctor Travis and hit a local dive bar to watch the Champions League, where the Germans outnumbered the Nepalis and the local police failed – despite their best efforts – to shut us down for curfew.
Tomorrow I break for Kathmandu by plane or by truck, depending on the weather, and from there it’s off to Bali!
We’re here in Marpha after our third successful eye clinic – a beautiful, medieval looking town stacked against the mountainside. Yesterday we ran our surgeries along with a simultaneous screening camp, and Dr. Indra worked alongside our NYEE team. I got to try out the new Macro lens with amazing results – inches away from the eyeball, I was terrified I’d bump the surgeon and ruin someone’s day.
Check this out: a before, during, and after of a cataract removal in macro, pulled from my footage. I’ve seen some things, but this has to rank amongst the coolest.
I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of the slider this trip, and I’ve been trying to get creative with it, using it as a little crane, and getting some cool moving timelapses – here’s one of our sets below, shooting down on the clinic courtyard from the roof.
I’ve also had a chance to set up some cool shots with the doctors through their opthalmic lenses, adding that magnification to the already tight macro shot to literally see inside the pupil. Being able to see the eye pathology so closely is really something – here’s a corneal opacity from one of our patients:
Today the bandages came off, and our patients regained their sight – always a sublime moment to witness.
This afternoon we head to Pokhara to debrief and try out the local apple brandy. It’s been a great trip, and I think I’ll come out of it with some of my best images yet. Here’s a sampling:
We arrived in Pokhara safely and are preparing for a grueling 12 hour truck ride across remote mountain territory tomorrow.
At the monastery, we handed over a pile of gear donated by Sherpa Gear for the monks – fleeces, rain jackets, and hats, very nice stuff. My free-from-sponsorship rain jacket went missing on my last Nepal trip, so now I’ve successfully gone two in a row from donations… nice.
We took a quick tour around the facility, and for the first time since the temple’s completion I was granted camera access to the new monastery – an absolutely gorgeous work of art, every inch of every wall a different demon, god/dess, or buddha.
On the way down the steps Jeff had a problem with his iPhone and asked if anyone knew what to do. Scott and I both scratched our heads as Lama Kunga deftly snatched the phone from Jeff, solved the problem, and went about his way. I swear, the man is a force of nature.
Time to get some sleep – long ride tomorrow. Internet may or may not be a possibility out there, so I’ll catch up with more on the 27th or 28th, if not sooner!
Visited the Pema Ts’al Monastery this afternoon, lots of familiar faces and happy reunions. As we began planning our logistics into Mustang, I couldn’t help but notice Lobsang’s new tattoo: a stark, bold, “Save Tibet” right across his forearm. When I asked him about it, he said it was two months old. Why did he do it, I asked. “Someone told me: to be born Tibetan is to be born an activist. I have thought very much about this, and decided that in this way I will spread my message.”
During the tour I pulled him aside for some photos, so I can help in that endeavor.
So here I am in Kathmandu – honestly, it’s starting to feel like a second home. Last night we went out for local food, Raksi and some beautiful Nepali dancing. Nepal is pumping me with good energy – a few days ago I was a sniffling wreck coming off of a feature in Rhode Island, three weeks of long hours and bad diet left me with a cold, a bacterial infection, and the most concerned look a nurse has ever given me on my pre-Nepal physical. But already I’m shaking the illness and bursting with energy to get out into the field and make something beautiful.
Here’s the skinny: Scott Hamilton’s leveraged support from Dooley Intermed and other donors for a followup project in lower Mustang – a crackshot operation with only about 6 field days, but a much larger team of docs and surgeons on the ground. We’re hoping to see a lot of people in a short period of time, and our friends at Pema Ts’al have been hard at work organizing the communities to make that possible. With luck there’ll be some riding out to a few of the more remote places, but mostly we’re playing it closer to the chest on this one, with a lot less travel. This is a nice opportunity for me to try out some new gear – 100mm Macro lens for those supercloseups on the surgery and eye work, slider for some nice moving shots with the 5DMK3 and hopefully some timelapse with the motor. Since we’re only moving three times instead of every day, and my output for this one is going to be a short rather than a feature, I think I’ll have a lot of room to play around and get great material.
After we wrap on the 26th, I’m catching a plane to Bali to see my little sister for a few days. If her accounts are anything near accurate, I’m in for an epic battle with the infinite proliferations of demonic alien forces that flood the Vedic cosmic. Can’t wait.
I’ll try to update periodically from the field, bandwidth willing. Thanks for reading!
We recently had an awesome first premiere of Haydom Hospital: Facing Life Without Care in Michal’s studio in the Mission, as pictured above. The studio was packed full with about 100 people, audience feedback was overwhelming and about a dozen people told me they were in tears during some of the more intense scenes… so I think we’ve done our job well, despite the very difficult content.
Our public release will be happening any day… we’ve decided to release the entire film online with a donate option where people can give directly to help doctor Theresa’s excellent educational foundation for Haydom – if you can read German, you can see her blog here. More release details to follow soon.