Bigger Ain’t Always Better

If you were to win either (a) a 2-carat diamond, or (b) a 50-pound slab of granite, which would you choose? The answer is obviously (a), although granite is quite nice once polished and installed in your kitchen. Also, that 50-pound slab could (theoretically) contain a 2.5-carat diamond, in which case you REALLY chose wrong…but I’m getting behind myself! The point is, whether in travel, photography, gifts, meals, and many other things in life, bigger ain’t always better. Once we slow down and look at the macro world instead of always going for the biggest, the world becomes so much more interesting. I chose to look at the small picture the past few months, while attending events, photographing, traveling a bit, and even spending time in my backyard.   For example, folks in the Northeast flock to places such as Niagara Falls, Watkins Glen, and Kent Falls  and other huge waterfalls to be in awe. Here’s my photo of the oh-so-lovely Rainbow Falls at Watkins Glen in New York’s Finger Lakes. Beautiful, no?

IMG_2049logo But are the small, none-more-than-five-feet-tall brook waterfalls of Dover, New York, any less beautiful? I get them all to myself, and the beauty of this almost temperate rainforest shocks those who see my state as one giant city.   IMG_9046pslogo   What about weddings? I had a wonderful time at all of the weddings the past few months, getting to see friends, celebrate, and reunion-ize to my heart’s content.

Yet I also was able to celebrate and photograph the wedding of two dear friends of mine—friends I actually helped set up!—in a small but equally wonderful ceremony. They shared their special day with just a handful of immediate family members, and it was a wonderful, intimate moment that they were able to share without all the cost, craziness, and show associated with so many weddings.

Or take something as simple as country drives. I can pay money and stroll through botanic lands and farmland, and see so many plants I never knew existed.

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On the other hand, I was able to walk into my own backyard and find a wonderful assortment of critters. This ¼”-long tree frog made my day!

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And most recently, I spent time at the beach in Fire Island with a friend of mine. We had entire stretches of beach to ourselves and had a great time exploring dunes, finding a disappointing shipwreck, and making fun of women who think platform sandals on sand are a wise choice.

Wait, look closer...

Wait, look closer…

But then out of the blue (literally?), I saw something wriggling on the beach. We walked closer, and I quickly realized I was staring at a small shark! At just about 3’ long, it sat wriggling there for at least 5 minutes, trying to…accomplish something? The reason remains unseen.

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It pretty much made my day. What I’m trying to say is this: Don’t always assume that the bigger the production, the more awesome it is. Sure, it can be. But there is so much beauty in the details. Go walk into your backyard, or grab a macro lens, and hopefully you’ll agree. And also, don’t buy blood diamonds. The end!

My Photos of India, as Featured in the Huffington Post

I had quite a nice surprise this weekend: I discovered that several of my photos were featured in a popular HuffPo article!

My photos were posted as part of this article written by bestselling Indian author Chetan Bhagat, an English writer who pens both novels and non-fiction about contemporary India. It describes how the Western world is obsessed with old, exotic India, and not the India of 2014–a modern-day India full of technology, jeans, cyber cafes, and investment options. Mr. Bhagat has millions of Twitter followers, millions more fans, and millions of book copies sold, but he finds it hard to communicate the fact that India is a changing nation. And it’s easy to understand his point. While living in India, I felt lucky to see both sides of the spectrum, and to not only photograph them, but live in them. I spent time with farmers in the poorest of areas, used wi-fi in hip cafes, slept on concrete slabs with locals, and rode the subway in the cities. Sometimes these everday events occurred within hours of each other! There is still so much to be seen of the “old” India–the areas with no running water, mud huts, and poverty–but there is a modern-day India that westerners often ignore.

The six photos of mine that were published as part of Mr. Bhagats article are, funny enough, all about the “old” India. Even so, there are modern-day stories about each one. In the photo above, for example, the bride was the niece of my friend and co-worker. I am friends with the bride’s uncles and cousins on Facebook, and she attended the college where I spent the bulk of my time in India working. On the other hand, she had only met her groom a few times, and the wedding took place in a remote part of Rajasthan. I traveled for days with her extended family in order to reach the wedding temple. In the photo below, these kids were indeed working hard while barefoot, and they lived in extremely basic concrete and salvaged wood shanties. Yet just down the street, people lived in beautiful homes with Western toilets (believe me, that’s big), mostly reliable power, and garbage bins. No matter that these garbage bins were only emptied by cows during my entire time there; they were placed there with forward-thinking intentions. As India works toward being a modern-day society, from what I observed while living there at least, still many obstacles stand in their way. Will Modi change some of that? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. Read the entire article right here, and see all the featured photography of India on HuffPo’s site.

I’m delighted that my photos were showcased in such an interesting piece, and I’ve already received some thought-provoking messages from passionate Indian citizens. Please feel free to ask me any questions by leaving a comment below, or by tweeting me @AntiTourist. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

More musings from Chetan Bhagat, a man named Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010, can be seen here.

My photography, including a photo essay on India and plenty more travel photography, can be seen at KathrynCooperPhotography.com.

 

Come Hear Me Speak on a Travel Writing Panel in New York City

If you’re in New York City on Tuesday, June 17th, then come on down and hear me speak on a travel writing panel! My friend Debbie will be doing readings from her book on traveling in Tibet, and other folks will be doing photo talks and readings. To end out the night, several of us will share interesting stories, compare points of view, and engage in Q&A with the audience–who, at that point, will likely be full from the passed appetizers and obligatory cocktails. I’ll also have some prints on display, so please consider spending your Tuesday evening with us. I may even wear a dress. For more information, view the official Facebook invite here. Hope to see you there!

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The Southwest vs. the Northeast: Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Differences

 

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In the Southwest, folks frequently say canyon, rocks, and “gnarly outcroppings” to give a sense of scenery. Case in point: This slot canyon (above) near the Arizona/Utah border.

Conversely, in the Northeast, we frequently use words such as trees, forest, and ticks to describe the landscape. Example: This New York State lake in the height of spring (below):

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This is what scholars would call a fairly obvious difference.

Other differences between these two regions of the USA, however, are not quite so apparent. Let’s go over a few.

 

-When I gamble in the Northeast (Mohegan Sun; Foxwoods), I almost always end up losing money—to the tunes of hundreds or even thousands of pennies.

-In Vegas, I’m able to make back ten times what I gambled!

Note: I used a sample size of one. Also, in Vegas, I gambled one dollar. My winnings didn’t even cover my Pad See Ew at dinner.

 

 

-In Arizona, locals enjoy deep-fried food such as Navajo Indian Frybread (below). They take something that already has zero nutrition, and proceed to fry it, then top the whole shebang with cinnamon, sugar, honey, fruit syrups, chocolate, and other calories.

-In New York, we would never serve food like that. We believe in frying things that are already bad for you. Any street festival will provide offerings such as deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried cheesecake, and bacon. Deep-fried (below). Photo by Victor Vic

 

-In California and any states in the Southwest, Mexican food is popular and delicious. Restaurants provide complimentary topping “bars” filled with delicious taco spreads such as salsas, veggies, hot sauces, and slaws.

-In New York, Mexican eateries are run by Chinese immigrants. No one knows why this is a thing, but it is. Besides, how else would you get #29—a Chinese bean curd soft taco served with peppers, onions, and Chinese hot sauce?

 

-In the Southwest, people are friendly.

-No.

 

-In New Hampshire, vehicles travel in groups of four. IMG_5846-LRsmall-logo-2

-Same thing in Utah, actually.

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-In all of New England, there are multiple shades of green on trees, bushes, shrubs, grasses, river plants, and more.

-In California, there’s only one shade of green, and it’s sold at “medical” dispensaries.

Note: Keep the not-actually-ironic pity snickers to yourself.

 

-In California and Arizona, the sky is pink whether it’s sunrise, sunset, or in between.

-New Jersey is polluted. [photo redacted]

 

-In Arizona and Utah, lines are drawn by nature over time, and brought out in beautiful red-and-white sandstone.

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-In New York City, no one knows where to draw the line–hence why we have park-wide pillow fights that result in many smiles and even more bruises.

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-In Arizona, weather changes faster than 5,023 snaps of the fingers. The two photos below were taken while standing in the same place, but turned 90 degrees.

-In all of New England, we get approximately 5 months of snow and ice followed by 5 months of ridiculously hot summers. For a few weeks in between we usually celebrate spring and fall (below).

 

-What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

-What happens in Atlantic City is too depressing to even talk about.

 

In summation, you can see that these two distinct areas of our nation are different in remarkable ways. Whether it’s flora, friendliness, food, or more, we must celebrate our country’s amazing diversity. Next up: Rednecks of Arkansas vs. rednecks of Kentucky: Wal-Mart edition.