Time to freshen up the website for the new year, so I’ve made a few additions and changes. Firstly, I’ve added a few scans of stories that appeared in printed magazines (an increasingly rare form of media!) during 2016. These are:
- Deep in the Delta, a photo essay on the Mekong Delta for Jetstar Asia magazine.
--Strange Town, a focus on Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar, for the South China Morning Post.
--Blissful Bloom, a story about the sacred lotus for Morning Calm (Korean Air inflight).
I’ve also changed the sample story from my collection ‘Searching for Shangri La’. ‘Sweeping Meditation’ is a chronicle of my changing attitudes to the fascinating activity of sweeping leaves. There’s also an audio version of the story, so rest your eyes for ten minutes and listen to the tale unfold.
Y'all know Wikipedia, dontcha? That wonderful bastion of philanthropy, the so-called ‘free’ encyclopaedia staffed by selfless sharers of essential information—one of the world’s ten most popular websites, written by the people, for the people?
Well, I got news for you—Wikipedia is wicked, and I don’t mean that in a ‘so bad it’s good’ way. I mean wicked, as in nasty, calculating and, worst of all, corrupt.
How do I know? Well, one of their regular contributors just tried to sell me a page about myself on Wikipedia…for $910, non-negotiable. Ali Khalid tried to hook me in with the tempting thought that…”These days, anyone who is important is on Wikipedia. It shows people that one is popular and credible”.
So, just how credible is Wikipedia? Ali sent me links to the Wikipages of a couple of satisfied customers, who had paid the going rate to be deemed important, popular and credible. Lyn Mikel Brown, it appears, is an American feminist and Nancy Cruickshank retails beauty products.
I’ve no doubt that there are still a few well-intentioned souls writing for Wikipedia who want to warn us of the dangers of fracking (or whatever their obsession is) without receiving a cent for their troubles, but it seems there are richer pickings to be found by dipping into the endless supply of real-life people who want to be considered important or notable.
Fancy a go? Then here’s what to do. Write a few (free) biographies for Wikipedia of little-known but notable dead poets/musicians/artists/etc, in order to establish yourself, then market your talents to the millions of semi-successful people on this planet who would happily part with $910 for a taste of notability. Soon as you know it, you’ll be rolling in clover.
I’m sure I’m not the only photographer who has watched with dismay as online stock photo (or microstock) libraries have mushroomed over recent years. Why dismay? Well, I used to sell my travel stories to clients as a package of words and images, of which the images would often be worth half or more of the fee. Yet since these image libraries have expanded to cover every destination and topic under the sun, and since their images are available for use at US$1 or less, most publications I work for now want me to provide text only, which means I’ve lost about half my previous income.
To give an idea how fast these sites are growing, Shutterstock (the biggest) has over 70 million images available, and uploads over half a million more each week. This works out to a staggering 50 images uploaded EVERY MINUTE! The downside for contributors to SS is that no sooner have they uploaded new material than it gets pushed off the first page and so has less chance of selling.
Despite these problems, I finally decided to stop grumbling and adopt the attitude of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. So I recently submitted a selection which was accepted, and you can see my tiny portfolio at http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?gallery_id=3496445. I’ll post a few samples below, and I’ll be submitting images quite frequently. After all, as SS contributors know, this is a numbers game, and only those who are constantly uploading make any money. Even then, at US$0.25 per image, you’ve got to make A LOT of sales to be successful. Nevertheless, I’ve made a steady start and already my earnings stand at US$1.50!
Usually when I travel, I’m updating a guidebook, so I’m rushing around from dawn to late, checking hotels and restaurants for inclusion in the next edition of the guide. But a few weeks ago I lucked out, spending ten days on a Pandaw cruise around Ha Long Bay and the Red River Delta in Vietnam in order to write and photograph a story about it for the company’s magazine, as it was a new route that they wanted to publicise.
Loved it! Sprawled on a sun lounger, taking in the endless change of view, from towering karst outcrops to container cranes, brick kilns, fields of rice and passion fruit, locals waving from the riverbank. Wandering around small villages, watching water puppet shows, seeing conical hats made, listening to traditional songs sung by teenagers. Writing a few notes about the experience and getting to know my fellow passengers, gorging on gourmet food three times a day. Following are a few images from the trip.
If you want to read the full story, take a Pandaw cruise and read it in the Pandaw Magazine while aboard, or sign up as a subscriber on their website—www.pandaw.com.
Restoration at My Son
The My Son complex of Cham temples located in a lush valley around 40km from Hoi An is one of Vietnam's World Heritage sites and brings a steady stream of visitors every day to view the ruins of a once-powerful civilization. However, many of the ruins were in such a decrepit state that they gave little idea of how the site once was. Now a sensitive restoration project by UNESCO has brought back to life Group G of these temples, and ongoing work is transforming the ruins of Group E, which dates back to the 8th century.
The life of a guidebook writer can be full of surprises, such as world-famous clients suddenly disappearing overnight.
I was just about to go out for a Friday evening meal with a few friends, to enjoy a few beers and some witty conversation, then thought that before I left home I should check my email to keep my inbox clear for the weekend.
As with many writers, I find there's always a gap between what publishers want me to write and what I'd really like to write myself, which leads to a fair amount of frustration. However, I've spent the last couple of weeks struggling with re-formatting the text and images for this new publication, Searching for Shangri-La, and now it's been released both as an ebook by Amazon Kindle and as a print-on-demand paperback from Create Space, another branch of Amazon.
Searching for Shangri-La consists of a collection of short writings culled from over a couple of decades, describing unusual places or experiences that I have come across on my travels. Since they are very personal and opinionated pieces, they are the kind of stories that are difficult to sell to magazines and websites, which prefer their travel stories crammed with hard facts.
Nevertheless, I have confidence that there are readers out there who will be intrigued by such writings, which are (I hope!) both entertaining and informative. So please consider splashing out $2.99 (for the ebook edition) or $4.99 (for the paperback edition) to read the entire collection, and if you find it a worthwhile read, please tell your friends! To see a sample, click here.
As my book Walks along the Thames Path has just been released in its fourth edition, I got to pondering the magical attraction that the source of a river has, and in the case of the Thames, the nagging doubts about its true origin. Then the pondering turned into a story, called...
SEEKING THE SOURCE OF THE THAMES
Locating the source of a river is not as simple as it may seem. For a start, most rivers have dozens of tributaries, all of which originate at springs, so just how do you decide which is the main source? Interestingly, there is no internationally recognized method of determining such an essential fact, though logic would suggest it is the spring that is furthest from the mouth of the river, or at the highest elevation above sea level, or that produces the greatest volume of water; yet this logic does not always apply.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.