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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Indonesia has more than Bali

In my previous post, I wrote that for my trip to Indonesia I am expecting temperatures at the upper end of the scale. They were and in adition humid - even very hot and very humid! But the fantastic experiences in the rainforest of Borneo made me forget the stresses and strains. It was an incredibly wonderful feeling to take pictures of Orangutans so close.


In the rain forest, north of Sulawesi, it is in the early morning dark and humid hot. The nocturnal tarsiers return to their tree holes. The small primates are just 10-15cm tall and make long jumps. They persist for a few seconds in between but almost immobile and can be photographed despite the absence of light. In the rain forest we also found the endemic crested black macaque who frolic in large family groups or sometimes for a short time are posing on a tree trunk.

One of the toughest jobs in the world, the workers in the sulfur mine at Ijen volcano. Without respiratory protection they break amidst sulfur fumes out the sulfur lumps with iron bars and package them in bamboo baskets. A cargo weighs between 60 and 80 kg and is carried on the shoulders by a steep path to the edge of the crater 200m higher. From there they continue to the base of the volcano, which lies 500m deeper. A brutally hard work. We do the tour with porters for our camera gear and gas masks.

Indonesia extends across the Ring of Fire, a series of 452 volcanoes, ranging from South America to Alaska and down to Japan via Indonesia. In Indonesia, the volcanoes are most active. From Penajakan, a viewpoint near the Mt Bromo, we experience a spectacular sunrise.


Like a trip to the Jurassic Park is a visit to the small Sunda islands in eastern Indonesia. With a houseboat we sailed to the islands of Komodo and Rinci to photograph Komodo dragons. We were lucky to shoot a fight between two males and to see the dragons along the beach.

We also photographed landscapes, people and culture. Be it at a market, where next to fruits and vegetables rats, bats and dog meat is sold or in the rice fields and villages. The people were extremely friendly and we experienced, that in the remote parts of Indonesia, western faces are very rare. We were "marvelled at" and more than once they ask for a photo with them.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Polar Bear Mom with cubs in the wilderness of Canada

In the wilderness of Canada, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Churchill at the Hudson Bay, is Wapusk National Park. Where icy winds create temperatures down to minus 50 degrees Celsius, polar bear mothers give birth to their cubs in dens deep in the snow. In March, when the little polar bears are 3 months old, the mother leaves the den to migrate to the ice on the Hudson Bay, because she desperately needs food after a long fasting period.
Near the park is a lodge in a converted military base. This is the starting point of serious photographers, to photograph this very special moment. But it's hard! The dens are searched with Mattrack vehicles and then after setting up the equipment patience is asked. We wait six days in front of a den at temperatures down to -48° Celsius (-54° F). Seven hours a day. It's cold, very cold and it takes patience, lots of patience. Twice a head that looks out of the den and disappears again - that's it.

Then, on the seventh day, she leaves the den. The cubs are playful and explore a world that they see for the first time after three months of darkness. A fantastic experience, which compensates for the long waiting period.

On the first day the mother makes forays in the vicinity of the den. She repeatedly stops and digs a hollow to rest and to nurse the young. We follow the mother and the cubs  in a safe distance. The photographic equipment is at the limit of functionality and I can feel the brutal cold in spite of joy and fascination.

The Hudson Bay is far away and yet the mother must go there. For too long, she has not eaten. Only on the ice, she can hunt for seals and the food it urgently needed to be able to nurse the cubs. The next day she is on her long journey.

Not only the polar bears are fascinating, but also the lonely wilderness, far away from civilization. The sunsets are spectacular and life in the lodge, without running water, is basic but cozy. The variety of food is rich and the chef does his job very well.

The clear nights offer a firework in the sky with northern lights. Churchill is located directly below the Van Allen radiation belt, where the cosmic radiation brings the Earth's atmosphere to fluoresce. At -48°C (-54°F), the photography is extremely difficult but the acting compensates for the effort.

The journey to the lodge is far, very far. Three days out and two days back. Access to the lodge is exclusive. Only a limited number of photographers are lucky enough to get a place in the lodge. The rugged wilderness has really touched me and I hope that despite the climate change it will be possible to see polar bear mothers with their cubs in the wild also in the future.


More pictures can be seen here:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Photo Book of Shetland

In July 2011 I have, as already reported, traveled to Shetland . From the impressive landscapes, the colorful puffins and the cheeky otters I created a Photo Book. Unlike pictures in a gallery, pictures in a book tell a story and trough the composition often create a whole different effect.

The Photo Book is now online and can be viewed on my website.

Simply click on the envelope and you can (with a mouse click in the corner) flip the pages of the book.

More Photobooks can be seen on my Homepage.  www.rudolf-hug.ch

My next trip
End of February I travel to Canada to
photograph polar bears with their cubs. An expedition of a special kind. In the heart of the Canadian tundra an old military base was turned into a simple lodge. From this base, we will be looking for the polar bears with Mattracks (special tracked vehicles) at temperatures down to -40°C . I hope for good pictures and temperatures that are not too deep.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The old custom of "Silvesterchlausen" in Switzerland

One of the finest traditions of Switzerland is the "Silvesterchlausen" in the Kanton Appenzell Ausserrhoden. The custom is celebrating the New Year's Eve once after the current Gregorian calendar (31st December) and once by the old Julian calendar. (January 13). Then groups of  beautifully dressed men "Schuppeln" move from house to house to wish a good New Year. I had the opportunity to accompany the "Hofbachschuppel" on their route. The weather was mixed, and especially in the morning there was a mystical and misty atmosphere.

The "Vorrolli" (in the figure of a woman) leads the Schuppel, followed by four "Mannevölcher" (men) with large bells. Last the "Noerolli", another female figure. They wear elaborate bonnets, richly decorated with scenes from everyday life. Arrived at a house the inhabitants are ringed out with the large bells. Then they stand together and the leader starts with his head-voice a "Zäuerli" (a form of nature yodel). So pure and clear as mountain spring water. The other "Chläuse" join in harmoniously. Sometimes quickly, sometimes more melancholy sounds the nature yodel in the beautiful countryside of the Appenzell hinterland.

The hats and bonnets of the "Chläuse" are decorated with scenes from everyday life. In many hours of work pieces with intricate figures and ornaments are decorated. The motto of the Hofbachschuppel is "Silvesterchläuse". Even the hats of the figures have scenes from everyday life in a detail that's hard to believe.


In addition to the "Beautyful" there are also the "Beautiful-ugly" and the "Ugly". The "Beautiful-ugly" have dresses of pine branches, moss and other natural materials. The hats also represent scenes from everyday life, but are not so richly decorated as the "Beautyful".

The "Ugly" have a similar dress but horrible masks with horns and teeth of animals. They are wilder than the others and dance and jump scary.

These images are just a small selection of this fascinating event.