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I’m in SFO on my way home from Bhutan.

Can you believe… I now have a small fracture on my foot (a common fracture of the 5th metatarsal) and am wearing a fashionable cast courtesy of the Punaka hospital. I was collateral damage from a “yak attack”.

“The Yak” courtesy of Elizabeth Menzies (wouldn’t you run from him!)

The beast was going for someone else but he looked mean so I decided that I should move also. I turned to run but tripped down a hill. Thinking of my neck (see previous post) I propelled myself into the arms of a hefty Bhutanese but landed on a turned foot. Luckily I was with Hill Hastings, a brilliant orthopedic surgeon. I had an x-ray in Punaka and Hill put on a plaster cast and fashioned a walking shoe out of my Chaco sandal with a rocking piece of wood on the bottom. Hooray for Ortho Engineering. So I hobbled my way eastwards through Dzongs and high roads. I rode a horse on the Merak-Sakteng trek up and down thousands of feet of steep rocky trails (although we got snowed out from crossing the pass.). Hooray for Norbu and Rakpa. My driver painted a huge phallus on the cast to keep away evil spirits (a common motif in Bhutan — huge ones painted on houses, wooden ones handing from roofs, etc.) The Bhutanese were thrilled and giggled copiously at the sight. However, I was not so sure that the airport security would understand, so I shrouded it with a lovely blue scarf. The cast is being replaced on Tuesday with a boring western one which I probably will wear for another three weeks. However, I am making sure that “Dick” remains intact and upright and will have a place of honor as bathroom art!

They lie about “trouble only comes in threes”. Oh, they lie!

Nevada, Rakpa and Norbu


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I’m mid-flight from New Delhi to Bangkok, and then tomorrow I’m on my way to Myanmar. I have just enough time to reflect a smidgeon on the photography tour I just led for National Geographic to Rajasthan. One of many things I love about National Geographic tours is that they are so international in nature; there were avid photographers from the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, and France. It was a group of singular synchronicity and fun.

We had many lively discussions. They had very thought provoking questions for me as we went bumping along in our magical bus through the desert of Rajasthan, such as “What is the element that is most important for a photograph?” What makes a photograph great? I’m sure all of you will have your own answer but here is mine, quite simplied.

Those of you who have taken workshops with me know that I talk about how photographs have the possibility of great Color, Light, Action (large in your face action or just a twinkle in the eye), or Pattern (or you could say Composition). CLAP, if you need an acronym.

You need two of these elements to create a photograph but to make a memorial one, one that SINGS… you need an added factor. It could be a punctuation of another element (as I discussed in an earlier blog post). However, I think it is more than that…it is when there is a harmonic convergence of the emotion of the photographer with the emotion of the moment (even if it is inanimate). In a way it is a photographic epiphany. These are rare, but it what all virtuosos of light aim for in their art.

And, because they are rare, this is why I continue to photograph. I don’t expect to reach my photographic Everest; I just love the journey through the ups and downs and many plateaus.


© nevada wier    India, Jodphur. Evening Street Scene.


© nevada wier    India, Rajasthan. Early morning Pushkar Fair.


© nevada wier   India, Agra. Taj Mahal.

I suspect that 98% of the travel images in the world are taken straight on with one subject in the frame. That is fine if there is a compelling reason to do so–the expression is remarkable, the action compelling, the light god-like radiant, or it just had to be composed that way.

I have done my share of straight-on shooting. Most of the time I was just being lazy or bereft of vision. Or, maybe I was just having a good time walking down the streets of India, Vietnam, New York or anywhere with my camera. An interesting person, or a pretty door, or a splash of color does not insure a great photograph of these subjects. So, I better have an inarguable reason when I choose one of these images as a select!

Fortunately, when I get to a situation that beckons to me as a photographer I can often pull myself together, back away from the straight-on shot, and elevate my creativity.

Here’s an example of an extremely interesting person that first I photographed as a straight on head shot. It is okay, not terrible, but certainly not exciting.


I rethought the situation and MOVED and looked for more texture, depth and expression. It is still straight-on but now there is a reason.


© nevada wier     Myanmar, Chin State

It meant changing my perspective (the physical distance and angle from myself to the subject). Moving is one of the best ways to become a better photographer (especially if you are using a mid-range lens).

Last year I was in Mongolia photographing the Kazakh eagle hunters. I often take this kind of image so that the person gets used to having me photograph them, or so I can send back a print I think they might like. But then, at the end of the edit they usually end up in the trash.


In this composition there is a clump of horses in the background, the horizon is in the middle of the frame, and there is empty space that has no purpose. It is just another boring shot of an interesting person.

Since everything has to matter in a frame, I moved right under the eagle, and laid down on the ground, in order to shoot up at the sky. It almost looks like the eagle wants to swoop down and eat me (maybe it did!).


© nevada wier     Mongolia. Far west.

I am always looking for an interesting angle. Not long ago I was in Southern India. It is so easy to photograph in India that I feel I have to work extra hard to create a compelling image! I had a wonderful encounter with some pilgrims at the lovely Meenakshi Sundareswarar Thirukoil Temple.


© nevada wier     India. Madurai.

I knelt down with my wide angle lens, exposed for the sky (I often work on manual mode), and added a touch of flash. (I will discuss my use of wide angles and fill flash in future posts). I think you can now image that a straight-on shot would be rather mundane in comparison.

So take your straight-on “insurance” shot — then think, feel, and move!

I have increasingly becoming less interested in photographing a literal moment in time — a portrait, a moment when someone is working, an expression, a stunning landscape, and such. Oh yes, I still photograph these, but, while editing they do not interest me as much as before. I am more intrigued with the moments that a casual glance cannot see. Only a virtuoso of seeing can notice them, and only a master of a camera can express them. These images exist in shadows, fleeting expressions, and wiry juxtapositions.

I think travel (or should I say “destination”) photographers go through certain phases; I know I did:

First: Figuring out how to use a camera and just pointing the lens wherever.

Second: Clicking when you see a moment you like.

Third: Deciphering more of the camera and then clicking more deliberately.

Fourth: Feeling confident about your photographic skill and so photographing with enthusiasm but not intent.

Fifth: Starting to understand that the combination of a camera, lens, and sensor (or film) has a creative potential of its own.

Sixth: Traveling further afield with a camera, feeling confident, and then the emotion of the travel smothers creative photographic expression. (An amazing travel experience doesn’t necessarily translate to amazing images.)

Seventh: The technical level excellerates and expectations rise, images become technically lovely (perhaps like a photographer you admire) yet they are soulless.

Eighth: The photographic journey eventually begins… and expressive levels become very personal.

Ninth: You hate everything you have ever done and see all the imperfections.

Ten: Photography becomes more than a record or documentation of a journey; it becomes an expression of self, place, and beyond. And it is more challenging than ever before.


© nevada wier 2009      Assam, Manjuli Island. Rass Dance.

National Geographic Expeditions


November 3-15, 2008

March 1 -13, 2009

October 20 – 30, 2009

Magical desert cities, captivating people, and vivid colors have long drawn National Geographic photographer Nevada Wier to northern India. Join Nevada on a once-in-a-lifetime photography expedition to Delhi and Rajasthan. With your camera at the ready, delve into the markets and fortresses of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, live among the Bishnoi desert people, and witness the celebrations at the Pushkar Camel Fair during the Oct/Nov tours and the fabulous colorific festival “Holi” in March (a must see!).

and the

January 19 – January 28, 2009
On the Road in Bangkok, Thailand


National Geographic Expeditions

May 3 – 9, 2009 and July 12-18, 2009

On Assignment in Santa Fe


July 19 – 25, 2009
Outdoor and Travel Photography


2009 TBD (sadly this workshop folded… too bad … it was so good)


Scroll to Nevada Wier (Episode 02) for a very different web experience featuring Nevada

UPDATE December 2011: The original production is no longer featured on the Adobe Website but there are few pieces on Adobe TV

nevada’s website



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