Friday, January 28, 2011

Talking Picture Postcard - Tibetan Harvest Prayers

While Buddhist monks chanted and tossed paper prayers up to the blue sky, ranchers and farmers whooped, hollered and sprayed cheap liquor over the two dozen people gathered at the edge of Qinghai Lake. Last July an extended family of ethnic Tibetans were praying for a successful harvest and green pastures for their livestock.

View an iPad  friendly version of this 28 second audio slide show.

Monks carefully placed prayer flags to capture the breezes at this tiny holy place, a row of low stupas sprouting from the rocky and treeless soil where green grass, endless sky and brilliant blue lake merged.

We had spotted the multiple colors while speeding by on the highway, and when we followed the rutted track toward the lake, the only people around were two dirty children willing to pose for coins atop a horse. I wandered over to the fluttering flags, and within minutes the celebrants arrived, monks and civilians pouring out of 4 x 4 pickup trucks.

Located in a depression of the Tibetan Plateau 10,000 feet above sea level, saline Qinghai Lake has no outlet and is China’s largest. Qinghai means “Blue/Teal Sea” in Chinese, and also names this sparsely populated province that contains only about 6 million of China's 1.3 billion people.

Like the few lines we scribble and mail home describing our vacation travels, this Talking Picture Postcard, a brief five photographs and 28 seconds of field-recorded sound, is my way of saying “The weather is fine, having a great time, which you were here.”

And also, "have a great harvest!"

View more Miami multimedia photography at my portfolio site.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sounds Overheard: Listening To A Lunar Eclipse

While camping in the Florida Keys last month during the total lunar eclipse, I actually set my alarm for the middle of the night so I wouldn’t miss a rare astronomical event. What an amazing sight, the moon was a dull orange, the nearly black sky allowed millions of stars to pop into sight above the tropical button wood and gumbo limbo trees at Bahia Honda State Park.

Take a minute and a half from your hectic day, put on a pair of headphones or ear buds, and listen: first, gentle waves on the sand, then soft splashes and bubbles in a rocky tide pool, and finally a lone cricket rhythmically chirping above the distant waves.

I imagined I was looking up at the same disappearing moon just as my ancestors had, possibly from the entrance to their cave, the campfire long burned down, their bellies full of mastodon. I wondered if they were frightened at this unexpected sight?  Were they frightened by the sounds coming from the darkened woods? A saber tooth tiger roar, a hissing volcano?

My ears could only hear the ocean gently lapping on the beach a few yards away, the crickets chirping in the underbrush ... did Cave Man Tom hear these same sounds?

Water, crickets, sound, oh my, why was I daydreaming when I could be recording these wonderful sounds? At 3 AM I snapped back to 2010, pulled out my recorder and microphone, and had a great time capturing sounds under that big orange moon.

During my assignments and travels I've been recording the sounds I overhear, and many don't have supporting photographs or stories. This occasional series will be my excuse to share my audio orphans, these Sounds Overheard.