Thursday, April 30, 2015

Royal City, Bhaktapur, Nepal

On April 25, 2015, at 06:11:26 (UTC), central Nepal was struck by a earthquake of Magnitude 7.8, about 34 km ESE of the town of Lamjung. From the U.S. Geological Survey:

Tectonic Summary

The April 25, 2015 M 7.8 Nepal earthquake occurred as the result of thrust faulting on or near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north. At the location of this earthquake, approximately 80 km to the northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, the India plate is converging with Eurasia at a rate of 45 mm/yr towards the north-northeast, driving the uplift of the Himalayan mountain range. The preliminary location, size and focal mechanism of the April 25 earthquake are consistent with its occurrence on the main subduction thrust interface between the India and Eurasia plates.
Kathmandu has suffered devastating damage and at least 4000 deaths have been recorded around the country as of the writing of this post. In Kathmandu, the part of  the city known as Bhaktapur suffered damage to many historic buildings. I will post some photographs from a 2007 visit to Kathmandu in memory of the many kind and friendly people I met on that trip.

According to Wikipedia, Bhaktapur (Nepali: भक्तपुर Bhaktapur) is in the east end of the Kathmandu valley. Historically, it was on the trade route between Tibet and India, which contributed to the town's wealth and cultural achievements. It was the largest of the three Newa kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley, and was the capital of Nepal during the second half of the 15th century.

The city is known for its monuments and architectural heritage, appreciated by both local schoolgirls and dorky western tourists. This may be the Vatsala Durga temple.

Bhaktapur was also well known for its ceramic industry, with clay coming from pits and deposits in the valley.
Puppets of great complexity are carved and painted here.
In October, we saw the rice being dried on rooftops and platforms. This is a common sight throughout Nepal.
 The scene from a rooftop restaurant.
This is (or was) a rewarding place for urban photography. I hope the Nepalis can restore the historic building with time and hard work.

Photographs taken with an Olympus E-330 digital camera.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Abandoned Lock Business, Pascagoula Street, Jackson

Pascagoula Street runs east-west through downtown Jackson, passing south of the old King Edward Hotel and south of the Union Station. I was not around here decades ago, but I assume this was a busy commercial and industrial zone, with the nearby Union Station serving as a hub for commercial travelers and the rail lines providing freight service.
The area is quiet now. Empty parking lots and concrete pads attest to how much has been lost. This sign for the Jackson Safe & Lock Co. has a 1940s or 1950s look.
Vagrants have pried back some of the fencing and, I assume, stay in the building. I took the interior picture by placing my camera on a window ledge and using a remote electric release. Digital cameras are very convenient for this type of work.
This is a 2001 Kodachrome slide from the parking lot just west of the old lock company (I can't recall if it was operating then). The building in the distance was the deserted King Edward Hotel. Originally built in 1923 as the Edwards House, it hosted Mississippi's most prominent visitors, entertainers, and politicians for decades. The hotel closed in 1967. When I took this photograph, the King Edward was a deserted shell and had been empty for almost 35 years. The good news is that a partnership coordinated by Historic Restoration Inc. of New Orleans rebuilt the King Edward and the grand old hotel reopened in 2009.
A few blocks south at West South Street is an old warehouse, probably typical for this area in the early-20th century. A tattoo shop occupies the ground floor. It seems an effective way to reuse a historic commercial space.

The 2001 Kodachrome was taken with a Leica M3 camera with 50mm f/2.8 Elmar lens, tripod-mounted.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Abandoned Fuel Terminal in Vicksburg

Just below Washington Street at 600 Depot Street is an abandoned fuel oil distributor. The yellow pages show this this was once Moak Petroleum Products , Inc., but I do not know dates of operation or who owns the site now. The gate is open and you can walk right in. The grounds reek of gasoline or solvent. Some tank or pipe is leaking. I wonder if the place would ignite?
This is the scene looking east. Washington Street is up on the bluff.
Looking north,you see the former Mississippi Hardware in the distance (now closed and subject of a future post).
The shed in the first picture became a dumping ground for records and files from the company. I saw liquor bottles, so vagrants are using the building. The roof looks intact, so it is dry on a wet night, a good place for a homeless person, except for the fumes.
This building is secure and un-vandalized.
The pumps are the old-fashioned type with rotating numbers rather than modern LCD displays. I did not see ethanol stickers. (Editorial note: ethanol - another stupid politically-mandated mess that did not save energy nor make us energy-independent, and had serious and damaging environmental consequences. Also, it ruins older cars.)

Photographs taken with a tripod-mounted FujiFilm X-E1 digital camera, raw files processed with PhotoNinja software to convert to black and white.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monuments of the Past: Cavalry Cemetery, Galveston, Texas

Dear readers, some of you may remember that I wrote about Galveston's Old City Cemetery in 2014. In the early 1980s, I took some Kodachrome slides of mausoleums in a Galveston cemetery but did not record the location correctly. A friend in Galveston did some detective work and found that I had photographed the Calvary Cemetery. It is located on the Island between 61st and 65th Streets.
Here is the mausoleum in 1984 and 2014, after cleaning and, possibly, new plaster.
The older part of the cemetery, near 61st street, has a number of unusual tombs and mausoleums from the late-1800s or early 20th century. I do not know if victims of the 1900 hurricane are buried here.
Calvary Cemetery is a peaceful and interesting place to visit. But there is not as much statuary as in the Old City Cemetery.

2014 photographs taken with a Nexus 4 phone with files reprocessed with PhotoNinja software to reduce noise. The 1984 photograph is a Kodachrome slide taken with a Leica M3 camera and 50mm f/2.8 Elmar lens.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Burmese Days 16: Mandalay's Marble-carving Street

Mandalay is famed for its artists and, especially, for stone carvers. Near the western entrance of the Mahamuni Paya is a lane called Kyauk Sit Tan (near 85th Street) which is lined with shops where workers trim, carve, polish, and finish marble. Most of the statues are variations of Buddha.
I was told that the stone carvers come from a limited number of families, who have dominated this skill for generations. Young men and women learn from their elders. The amount of skill can be seen in the progress of carving a statue. The newer or less-skilled workers carve the gross features of a statue and work on the clothing. Then the artists carve the faces. (The two photographs above are from Kodak Tri-X film exposed in a Leica M2 camera).
Stone-carving is dusty and hazardous. Many of the workers eventually get silicosis. I saw that few were wearing respirators or eye protection. Look at the young man in the third photograph - he is coated in rock powder. The Irrawaddy newspaper wrote about the health risks to the stone carvers and the need to relocate the operations to a site further away from the city.
The final polishing and smoothing is done by ladies, working with water and fine grit or polishing cloths. It is hard work.
Finally, the finished product is shipped to the buyer, who may be a wealthy individual, monastery, government office, or foreign customer. Many of the finest statues go to Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. The Buddha in the photograph above was so heavy, five men had trouble maneuvering it to a truck.
The marble comes from Sagyin Mountain, about 32 miles north of Mandalay. The rock has been quarried for centuries. Five mountains in the area produce white marble, but they are being rapidly depleted by modern, industrial-scale mining. Last November, some of my Burmese friends told me there was a lot of objection to the sale of marble to Chinese companies. The fishermen above were trying to convince Irrawaddy dolphins to drive fish into their nets; part of the Sagyin Mountain is in the background.

Three photographs were taken with Tri-X film on a Leica M2 camera, with film developed in Kodak HC-110 developer. The digital files are from a FujiFilm X-E1 camera, processed with PhotoNinja software.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Burmese Days 15: Up the Irrawaddy

In the previous post, I posted some photographs from the Mandalay waterfront. Let's take a short boat trip upriver.
These long, thin, teak boats carry cargo, passengers, and animals, anything to earn a kyat. The ones set up for tourists are pretty comfortable.
You can be active and watch the unfolding scenery or snooze the day away. The diesel engine is noisy, but they do not run it at night. The boat's cook will prepare breakfast, but we brought our own coffee and filters.
Some of the commercial steamers (diesels) are pretty impressive - heavily laden with barrels and merchandise.
For the night, we pulled up to  a sand bank/sand island. These islands look rather barren, but families graze their cattle and set up residence during the low-water months. In some areas, they till the rich alluvial soil and grow crops. I wonder how they claim an area to farm? We fell asleep to the tinkle of a bell and aroma of cow dung.
Some of the local fishermen fish in cooperation with the now-endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris). The fishermen stand up in their boats and slap the water with their oars. The dolphins have been trained to know that this is fishing time. They herd fish into the nets and benefit from the bycatch that tumbles out or is discarded when the nets are pulled in. The day we watched the procedure, the dolphins were not very enthusiastic. The main threat to dolphin populations is habitat loss and accidents with nets. The dolphin populations in Indonesia and the Mekong River are almost extinct. These fishermen have a tough life. I gave a package of peanuts to the lady (the second photograph), and she ate them eagerly. She was hungry.
On another boat trip, we stopped on another sand island where some local families had been farming. It is hard work, and summer heat must be stifling. The high water is in July, August, and September, when the monsoon delivers tremendous rainfall to the jungles of central Burma and southern Himalaya. Melting of snow and glaciers in northern Burma adds to the volume. I could not find any recent hydrographs (a plot of flow rate (discharge) versus time at a specific location on the river). Possibly the Burmese government does not have a stream-gauging program, although the design of the controversial dams further north must have been based on some sort of data.
Finally, we saw some riverbank erosion control work near a village. I could not tell what the wood frames were intended to do, and the rock riprap was too small. They should have requested help from the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory via a request through the State Department. A coworker told me that on some rivers and canals, sticks or frames like this are used for mussel production. Eventually, the mussels grow so thick that they form a type of living shore protection (and can be harvested as food). This concept here in USA is known as Engineering with Nature (EWN). Possibly Irrawaddy flood control activities are tied up with the politics of the Myitsone Dam. The dam would be the first to span the Irrawaddy and have high social and environmental impacts. The Irrawaddy is one of the few remaining great rivers on earth without dams, with fish migration possible from ocean to headwaters. Activists have (hopefully permanently) suspended the dam project.

Three photographs were taken on Tri-X film using a Leica M2 camera; the rest were digital files reprocessed into black and white with PhotoNinja software.