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Featured Photo

Featured Photo Wednesday – Geoff Hunter

I am extremely excited to feature Geoff this week! Geoff is not only an amazing photographer, but also can write a pretty great story! I felt like I just took a trip to Nepal and experienced an amazing journey.

I am always impressed when someone can take a single picture and capture exposure and emotion in a single instance. The composition on the photograph is lovely. The way he captured those eyes, and the girls hair catching the sunlight creates one of my favorite images! Thank-you for sharing with us today!

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“Where to sis”?
1998 – Everest Region – Nepal

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with mountains and wilderness.

Since I was a child, my father would often take me to remote places and camp, mainly to fish for trout and explore various mountain wilderness areas. Due to the hot Australian climate, most trout fishing in Australia only exists in the high country, which usually means walking long distances in the mountains. I didn’t know it at the time, but all these trips as I grew up seeded my resultant love of mountains …and it was this fascination that eventually led me all around the world over many years, rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering and exploring and eventually, into the Himalaya of Nepal.

It was 1998, almost exactly two years after my first trip to Nepal, that I returned to climb a couple peaks in the Everest region. I joined a small Australian expedition of 9 people, lead by a native Nepali man, (at that time living and married in Australia) who had successfully climbed Everest a few years earlier. Our group aimed to climb a couple of 6,500M peaks – in particular, Island Peak – where the base camp is about a days walk from Everest’s base camp. The trip was very well planned and executed. We had 3-4 weeks in the high mountains to slowly acclimatise and for all of us to take in the amazing sights of the Himalaya. We’d lightly train to gain strength and in the process, hopefully adapt to the high altitude in the region they also called “the roof of the world”.

As part of our acclimatisation process, we would sometimes avoid the normal tourist/mountaineering trekking routes to get from A to B. Instead, weather permitting, we’d break trail and trek up and over snowy icy cols that linked two valleys, sometimes camping overnight near the summit. These nights would always be challenging to have a quality sleep because of the larger altitude gains. On one of these occasions, most of our group did not sleep well and were all up very early the next morning, gear packed, eager for the mostly down hill trek to a village called Lobouche later that day.

After a quick breakfast and cup of tea or two, we set off at around 7:00am with directions from one of our sherpas where to meet should we get lost on the trail. It was a fantastic weather day. The sun was out, no clouds in sight, a slight breeze and it was a crisp 2 deg celsius (35f). We had made excellent time descending the col in the first hour or so and soon had our crampons off and back walking on a rocky scree down to the trail head. The whole time, we could see the infamous peak of Ama Dablam dominating the skyline in front of us. We had been following a small stream for a good 15 mins when we rounded a large decaying rock buttress and came across a little traditional himalayan stone house. It was practically in the middle of nowhere, far off the main trekking tourist trails and not mentioned at all in our instructions at breakfast.

We decided to stop for 5 minutes to take on some water and have a light snack. Adjacent to the house was the small stream we’d been following – fast flowing from the ice and snow melts from the surrounding mountains and it’s roar made it was difficult to hear each other speaking. No sooner were we packing our water away, when I looked up to see a young nepalese boy standing in front of me, the sound of his approach masked by the stream. He was perhaps no more than 8 or 9yrs old and carrying his baby sister on his back in a makeshift sling. He simply stood there calmly and started pointing at me, pointing to my lips. It wasn’t obvious at first what he wanted, but soon enough I realised he noticed I was wearing lip balm (an absolute must have in this part of the world). I happily obliged. Whilst I was finding some spare balm in my pack, another of our small party gave the little girl a Pringle chip and she was happily munching away wondering what all the fuss was about. The boy was not interested in chips and was watching me look for the lip balm. I had soon enough found it but before I handed it to him, I took out my film camera, wound it onto the next frame, adjusted my aperture and quickly took this single shot. That was it.

As quickly as I handed over the lip balm he and his little sister were off. It was a strangely fabulous moment. No false pleasantries, no forced smiles, no waves of goodbye, no words were exchanged other than mutual respectful communicative gestures and the needs of the boy and his little sister were met without fuss. As the boy headed down the path before us, we wondered whether we may see them both again during the day either along the trail or at one of the tea houses along the way. Perhaps we’d even see where they lived, but we never did. We’d never see them again. All that day, I had a clear vision of his cute dirty face, the common runny nose you typically see on every child in this part of the world, the strange looking beanie on his head, all firmly in my mind. As we continued to trek further down the mountain over the next few hours I wondered where they had come from, where they were heading, why were they out so early, how long since they both had a wash – all things I guess parents think about with children.

16 years on and I still glance at this image and marvel at it. Not because of it’s pixel-peeping qualities as it has none, not because the image resulted in amazing clarity and detail …actually none of those things are important in this image. It was because of the innocence it draws, the focused look in the boys eyes, the raw emotion and simplicity of the boy …the “star of the image”, the impromptu’ness of our meeting …and the cause of the boys simple desire of obtaining something of need and value from a visiting westerner in his wonderful backyard, the mountains, the Himalayan mountains.

If only life today was as uncomplicated like that experience back in 1998, the world would undoubtedly be a better place. Thank goodness that we all still have photography to capture those unexpected special moments!

Geoff Hunter | Sydney, Australia.
www.flickr.com/photos/geoffhunter/

Related posts:

Featured Photo Wednesday - Craig Murray
Featured Photo Wednesday - Alaine Pabayos
Featured Photo Wednesday - Marie Gupta

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