The Year in Photos: 2014
I take a lot of photos. I don’t have a firm count on how many I shot in 2014, but I kept around 5000 shots this year and tend to delete the majority of what I take so 10,000 is a conservative estimate. Even with all those to choose from, however, there are still a handful that stand out as the moment that defined a month or an event or some particular experience – the ones I see again and think “Man, that was cool.”
I only spent 91 days outside of Kyrgyzstan this year, a fact that actually feels really strange after having been on the road so much since I left China some years ago. I only got to seven countries this year (Austria, Czech Republic, France, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey) with two of those (Czech and India) being new to me. If my count is right, I took 17 flights of ~32,000 miles – yet still somehow don’t have status on any major airlines. Better luck next year I suppose.
More than anything, the year’s pictures tell the story of where I went and who I met and what a weird lifestyle I’ve stumbled into. Most of these pictures are things you’ve seen before, but all of them represent some special moment to me and often highlight the defining feeling of the month they were taken in.
Like so many of my trips ‘to’ Istanbul, this shot was from a quick two or three days in between flights. Also like to many of these trips, I spent most of the time visiting some of my favorite delicious restaurants and photogenic viewpoints – including here on the bottom of the Galata Bridge playing with a new tripod and an under-utilized long-exposure function. I don’t remember now which, but I would put good money on the fact that either just before or just after this was taken I was stuffing a fish sandwich and probably some baklava into my face on the Karakoy side of the bridge. Istanbul is like my mini-vacation city, a time out between other trips where I don’t have to accomplish anything – other than maybe take a few more photos of my food.
One of the things I was most concerned about when finally making the decision to settle down in Kyrgyzstan was, by far, the cold. Languages can be learned and bureaucracy overcome, but cold just stays cold. What I didn’t count on, though, was just how visually appealing that cold can be sometimes. This day, from the ‘Defenders of the Fatherland’ holiday, was one of the first times I really gave it a chance and realized how atmospheric the snow and ice can be. I only had a few more chances to explore this during 2014, but definitely hope to keep doing so in 2015 and beyond.
I was excited, on the other hand, to finally be in Central Asia for the Nowruz holiday after having heard so much about it over the past few years! In late March this is not really friendly to the backpacker calendar, which mostly focuses on summer trips to Central Asia. Though in the end it isn’t super incredibly different from the way Kyrgyzstan celebrates many other holidays, the fact that it comes as the first sign of spring after the long cold of winter makes it feel extra special somehow. It looks like I’ll have to miss Nowruz in 2015 so, for now, this will remain my only experience with the event.
Paris was actually one of the first international cities I ever visited, way back in like 2006 as part of a school trip at Centenary, and for a while I’ve wanted to get back and see it through well-traveled eyes to compare how the experience felt as opposed to those of the first-time traveler. It was, amazingly, even better than I remember. Credit for that undoubtedly belongs in part to my girlfriend (who lived a year in the city) and one of her best friends (who was kind enough to host us despite a busy personal schedule), but it was also partially for times like these in which the famous sites and the quiet moments blend into one. This was literally my first few hours in town, having just dropped off my luggage and made plans to meet up later, but it remains one of my favorite shots from the entire trip.
Much of this year was about establishing some sort of base in Kyrgyzstan so getting the chance to be part of the photography team for the ‘RUN the Silk Road’ marathon was a nice way to meet other photographers within the country and, of course, to spend the weekend at Issyk-Kol. This little dude, an additional runner who snuck in among the other contestants for the 5k, may have been one of the only people around having more fun than me.
After a busy May and June, two months with very few quiet moments, a two-day stop in Istanbul at the end of the month was an amazing chance to catch my breath and just wander. A few hours in Gulhane park with a book, a few hours on the hillsides overlooking the Bosphorus near Cihangir, and a few cups of amazingly good coffee at Kronotrop.
June’s relaxing end wasn’t to last for long, however, because it was soon time to leave again to meet these two awesome people. Jess and Kevin are getting hitched, you see, and it seemed like Austria and Prague might just be cool places to make some engagement photos. Those were fun to shoot, but perhaps my favorite was this shot from a travel day at the Klosterneuburg Stift Monastery (where, admittedly, I forced them to be unnaturally still for unnaturally long – all in the name of photography right?).
August is a beautiful month in Kyrgyzstan, though sadly I spent much of it in town instead of out exploring the mountains. Even with Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day at the end of the month, my mind was already on September and the epic festival that was to come. Luckily a couple of friends and travel bloggers and friendly travel bloggers were in town at this time too, so at least I had somebody reminding me to get out and take photos and maybe even write a bit about it.
Then, just like that, it was time for the World Nomad Games! This had been on my radar since about November of 2013, nearly a year, so to be sitting in the Press Tent waiting for the opening ceremony to start as a sort of surreal moment. Though I like a lot of the photos I took over the week long event, this one is one of the strongest and most defining memories for me. Managing to flash a press pass and get out onto the field about an hour before the Ceremony started, I was one of only two or three photographers right in the action. Somewhere above the roar of the stadium and the blaring of the music I heard myself saying “this is ******* awesome.”
Continuing that theme of exploring stories to be found throughout Kyrgyzstan, I managed to secure an opportunity to accompany the Kyrgyz-based Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Enterprises teams up to one of their community partner villages waaaay up in the Tian Shan at Ak-Shyrak. I still haven’t written much about this, deliberately so in fact, but since 2015 is the Year of the Snow Leopard you can expect to see a bit more soon. At that moment, in that month, is was as much a chance to get out of the city and into the mountains as it was to work on a story I’m excited about. Luckily, of course, it ended up being both!
Though I didn’t travel nearly as much in 2014 as in years before, there were a few travel milestones that I was pretty excited about. One of these was in November, when I went to Turkey and actually managed to find my way beyond the limits of Istanbul. Two weeks on the coast was a chance to see all the most touristy bits of southern Turkey, but also moments like these that served as a reminder that live does go on there away from the beaches and fortresses and mountain cable cars.
And of course, last but not least, India! It’s hard to say what photo will define this trip for me, given that it’s still underway, but this is an early look at wandering the streets of Delhi the night before Christmas Eve. More soon.
Coming Up in 2015
The last days of 2014 and the first of 2015 see me (finally!) exploring India, a country I’ve had a visa for since two years ago and have wanted to check out for much longer than that. I’ve got plans in place for Nepal/Indonesia in March/April/May and potentially the US in July/August and maybe even Mongolia just after. Through it all, of course, Central Asia and ideally exploring a bit more in Kyrgyzstan itself. Seems like next year will be just as interesting as this one has been. Don’t want to wait till next year to see it all? Click over to my Facebook Page, Instagram, and Twitter profiles to follow me and see it all as it happens.
What was your most notable or photogenic moment of 2014? What big plans do you have for 2015? Leave a comment and let us all know!