Is it summer already?
Where has the time gone since I last made a post? I must admit to have been struggling with my photography a bit over the past few months. Where was I going with it, down the professional route to join an ever increasing number of others trying to break into the same market? I've never been one to blow my own trumpet, to push myself to the front of the crowd, to shout louder than everyone else to get myself noticed, as it seems you need to do in this cut throat business climate.
After a bit of thinking I came to the conclusion that it wasn't really what I felt comfortable doing, just not 'me'. Combined with the fact that anything I made from my photography just got ploughed into paying all the expenses of having a business presence I decided to call it a day.
Not from photography, just being paid to take photographs for someone else. Trying to run a business was quite literally just sucking the enjoyment out taking photos.
It was time to try and get some enjoyment back into taking photographs, the kind of photographs that I like to take without having to satisfy someone elses requirement.
Red & Green
It started with a trip to North West Scotland and a holiday cottage in Strathcanaird just to the north of Ullapool. A week of exploring the Inverpolly & Coigach regions in a mixture of all weathers. From calm, warm, blue sky and spring sunshine, to hurricane force winds with sleet rain hail and snow and a bit of everything else in between.
There are few places like the Northwest of Scotland that are not only wild and remote, but at the same time easily accessible. We had great week exploring the area. Coastlines and beaches to wild moorland and mountains, and what's more, we saw barely a soul. It was like we had the whole place almost all to ourselves.
Six weeks later, we were off again, this time to another wild and remote place. A complete opposite to the treeless expanses of Scotland, but possibly the epitome of what we consider wild and remote, the Island of Borneo.
Borneo ranks as the third largest island in the world and is made up of three countries, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia. On our visit we stayed exclusively within the two states, Sarawak & Sabah, that make up the Malaysian part of Borneo. Starting in Kuching, we travelled for 10 days taking in the culture and landscape finishing with a few days rest and relaxation on the beach close to Kota Kinabalu.
What an amazing place. A mixture of cultures, indigenous islanders, Malays, Chinese, Indian, to name but a few. Rugged landscape containing high mountains, spectacular caves, rivers, lowland and mountain rainforest 140 million years in the making. Then, of course, the wildlife including the endangered man of the forest - the orang utan.
In fact the orang utan was the main reason for our visit. Marian has always wanted to see orang utans in the wild and as this year coincided with a 'special birthday' it was the obvious time to go. We visited two sanctuaries and saw a number of orang utans at close quarters, plus we were lucky enough to spot one in the wild.
The unfortunate thing is, as is the case in most most of the worlds wildlife, the orang utans plight is entirely man made, hence the sanctuaries. That rainforest, so many millions of years in the making, is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Besides the orang utans, countless other varieties of plants and wildlife are being destroyed by monoculture on a vast scale - palm oil.
As we travelled it was staggering the size and number of vast plantations of palms, contoured around the hillsides, and in regimental rows across the flat, they seemed to stretch on forever. Palm oil trees only grow in equatorial regions but are not native Asia, having been imported into Indonesia in the 1800's and what is now Malaysia, in the early 1900's.
So, why palm oil?
It is relatively cheap and easy to grow and it yields more oil per hectare than any other oil producing crop. It's used in processed foods the world over, toiletries, industry, and bio fuels. I've read that our demand for it will continue to rise world population grows. By our I mean the human race, particularly us here in the so called 'developed world.
But at what cost?
As with all things there are two side to the argument, cheap foods, employment and economic prosperity for some local people with the benefits that brings against, damage to the environment, with associated species loss and climate, displacement of indigenous people.
The internet is full of claim and counter claim, too many to list here. You need to read the facts from those who have studied the subject in detail and avoid the hysterical hype all too easily found on the internet and make your own informed choice.
But who are we to claim the moral high ground. In many temperate 'developed' countries around the world vast forests have also disappeared. In England and Scotland deforestation began in the neolithic times to make way for farm land, building materials and fuel. Scotland was the western most outpost of the great European arboreal forest. There are now only tiny fragments lefts, as is common in the rest of the UK and Europe. Most of the wildlife from those forests is long since extinct. The practice still goes on and the forests of the world are getting ever smaller. Coigach Panorama
For me, I'll try and avoid those products with palm oil additives in future where I possibly can, I'm lucky, I'm able to make that choice.
I would rather support the local people of such places like Borneo with my tourist dollars, and be able to see the wildlife in its natural environment, stand in the rainforest at dusk and be deafened by the sounds of the jungle. I'm glad there are people who dedicate themselves to the welfare of the orang utans and other wildlife and was happy to spend my money in those sanctuaries to support their efforts.
The jungles of Borneo, and else in the world, need to be seen as a commodity more valuable left standing than cut down, but I fear human greed will ensure that this will never be the case.
I just hope we don't realise this before it is too late.