This online shoebox contains random pictures, notes, whatever. I've been a professional writer-photographer for so many years now. It's a damn good excuse to carry a camera around.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma
The recent Thaipusam festival is a healthy helping of blood, sweat and pain in oh-so-sterile Singapore. This event celebrates the birthday of Lord Murugan, a popular Hindu deity among South Indians:

Thaipusam2

Thaipusam1

Thaipusam3

The self-mortification commemorates the spear used by Murugan to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. I know this doesn't say much to non-Hindus - lets just say this is another instance where pain is a prayer.


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
#2 - Cruising the Dal Lake

Dal 
Lake

Just after sunrise, Kashmir's fabled Dal Lake is a place of stillness and beauty. The morning fog hangs heavy in the air, stretching all across the horizon like a milky blanket. The green-topped shoreline, the white-topped distant mountains, and the countless wooden houseboats all seem to glow under golden sunlight. It is this gorgeous backdrop that I find myself being part of.

I sit on a roofless shikara, a thick woolen blanket wrapped around me. My butler Akbar rows quietly at the back while I take in the scenery. The morning smells of mildew on leaves, mixed with the scent of freshly-baked roti bread from a nearby floating bakery. Everything in this lake adds up into such a mind-numbingly beautiful sum. This is one boat ride that I never want to end.


#1 - Lidder Valley, Kashmir

An excerpt from my article in Asian Photography Magazine:

"...A few days later I go on a camping trip to the nearby Lidder Valley, where the white-topped Himalayas form a constant presence on the horizon. On horseback and on foot – and with my camera always on hand – I explore slopes and fields inhabited by smiling Urdu shepherds and wandering Gujjar tribesmen with their livestock in tow. Needless to say, throughout my trip I take all kinds of shots – close-up portraits of farmers smoking their sheesha pipes on wooden shacks, telephoto landscapes of snow and sky, headshots of Urdu women carrying firewood on their heads – each of them carrying treasured bits and memories of this truly magical journey"

Pahalgam

"But I still have one more picture to take. On my last evening in Kashmir, I am once again behind my tripod-mounted EOS 5D, framing what must be my hundredth landscape image. In the growing darkness of dusk, I set my aperture to f8, and my shutter speed to a slow 30 seconds like I have done many times before. This one will be different, though, for right after I activate the shutter, I run to the front of the camera, and with a flashlight, draw a smiling face in the air. The resulting image isn't my best, but it does show how I feel about visiting this most legendary of places. Yes, I am happy to have seen paradise"

Not a bad year at all :)

 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
#8 - Bhoganandishwara Temple, Karnataka

Bhoganandishwara

An excerpt from my article in Spiceroute Magazine:

Nestled at the foot of Nandi Hills is an ancient structure that is so important it hosts its own archaeological station. The Bhoganandiswara Temple may not have its regular share of tourists (its not even listed in the brochures) but this sprawling complex is arguably one of the finest Dravidian temples in Karnataka.

A first glance at its well-preserved outer walls might give the impression of more recent origins. Step inside, though, and marvel at how beautifully this building has aged. Fine sandstone carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana decorate the inner walls, their chiseled curves practically untouched by restoration work. Of special note is the mantapa fronting the middle shrine, which is unique for its exquisite granite carvings of birds and deities. So intricate are the details here that one can literally run a length of thread between the crafted adornments on the figures.

The Bana king Bana Vidhyadhara must have had grand designs for this temple when he ordered it built at around AD 810. Thankfully its awe-inspiring character survives to this day. Cambodia's Angkor Wat is a crumbling 800-year-old temple. This baby is 1,200 years old - and it still works.


#7 - The Four Seasons Koh Samui

Four Seasons

Ok I must admit to using a hotel PR shot for this image. No picture I took of that hotel justifies the experience of staying there. Suffice it to say that I had my own villa. And a private infinity pool. On a hilltop overlooking the balmy blue waters off Thailand's paradise hideout of Koh Samui.

Too bad I couldn't stay there all day. On assignment for Fah Thai Magazine to photograph the island's most influential people, my co-photo-editor Katie figured we needed swanky accommodations to put us in the right state of mind. Turns out we sampled much more of the high-flying Samui expat lifestyle than we expected. At the end of our last shoot, one of our subjects - a Guinness-guzzling Irish pub owner - treated us to 6 bottles of vintage Dom, amongst other delectable spirits. At the end of that night we had to be accompanied back, and my last memory before falling asleep was of me floating in my infinity pool, watching a gazillion stars as they...zzzzzz....

What happened the next morning was THIS

 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Once the grand abode of the Dogra kings of Jammu, the ruins of the Mubarak Mandi are now inhabited by monkeys:
Monkey Palace

These windows look down into a courtyard where public executions used to take place.

 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Shikara, houseboat and the Dal Lake. These are the symbols of Kashmir:
Kashmir Colors

I'd go back there in a hearbeat.

 


 
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