Best of ASMP Photographer

I’m chuffed to be selected as a Best of ASMP 2011 photographer by my peers at the American Society of Media Photographers. I’ve long been inspired by tales of past honorees, and this year’s roll call is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s amazing how many languages people use to “write with light”.

ASMP Bulletin editor Jill Waterman made a marathon effort interviewing this year’s 20 photographers. Even I learned a thing or two in my own Q&A, thanks to her probing questions. And Director of Communications Pete Dyson bent over backwards to wrangle last-minute tear sheets and photo captions into my web profile.

Far-flung in Indonesia, it’s easy to feel cut-off from the mainstream photographic community. Devoted efforts from people like Jill and Pete, and the generous wealth of experience at the ASMP forums, make me feel right at home. Thanks guys!!

An excerpt from the Q&A…

Best of 2011: Djuna Ivereigh


© Djuna Ivereigh

Poachers-turned-guides scale giant trees, some with their first branches 50 meters off the forest floor.

During a 1998 Indonesian caving expedition, Djuna Ivereigh’s forest guides turned out to be a gang of highly skilled cockatoo poachers, trapping birds for the pet trade. At the end of the trip, she stayed behind to photograph the group as a personal project. Her resulting images inspired a conversion: While the poachers initially showed no signs of remorse in stringing up birds, they felt differently after studying her pictures. They now run a wildlife rehabilitation center and lead groups into the trees as ecotourism guides. Ivereigh has remained in Indonesia, as well, where she continues to photograph conservation and tourism, including luxury villas in Bali.

Djuna Ivereigh, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Project: A personal project documenting how Indonesian poachers operate and why, which resulted in their change of heart to work in ecotourism and wildlife rehabilitation.

DjunaPix-SeramAug2011-73

Guides from Seram Canopy Safaris (clockwise from top: Sonny, Ois, Buce and Peter) share a laugh beneath their newest rainforest canopy platform.

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

DI: Freelancing for 20 years; writing and shooting full time for 13; still working to wean myself of words.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

DI: Finally(!) pulled my head out and joined this year.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

DI: Trees, hobbits and the odd luxury villa. Emphasis on “odd.”

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable tool or piece of equipment?

DI: Menfolk envy my 500/f4 and its dedicated extender. My only consolation: “It’s not about the equipment, it’s how you use it!”

 

Read on about my rite of passage, how I dropped in on a cargo cult, and how I repaired a camera with a rock.

And see 19 more fascinating Q&As here.

Banda Dragon Survey

Banda – Images by Djuna Ivereigh

A few shots from Banda, on a scout with Jamie Woodall for the new Where There Be Dragons Indonesia Program. Later that year (Fall 2010), a gaggle of gap-year students had a great time out here.

Banda Panorama

Take a spin on the summit of Gunung Api, an active volcano at the heart of the Banda Islands of Maluku, Indonesia. As the native home of nutmeg, these are the “Spice Islands” that drove Europeans on their first journeys around the globe. In 1667, the tiny island of Run, just visible in the far the west (opposite the rising sun), was traded for Manhattan.

 

Fun with panos

1) Do somersaults!

2) Right click… “Little Planet View”. Now try somersaults!

3) Click lower right corner of image to toggle full screen view. This calls for more somersaults!

How’d I Do That?

This “spherical panorama” depicts 360° in all directions from the camera. It’s a stitched composite of four fisheye images shot from a single point. The camera was mounted on a special support, so that rotation centered on the “nodal point” of the lens — the point where all light rays converge. This eliminated parallax (displacement of the view throughout rotation) so that images could be neatly stitched using the program PTGui. From there, the image is beamed through the krpano viewer, which offers some fun projections and interface features.

Impress your Friends!

At last, the perfect gift for the know-it-all New Yorker. Put them in their place with this Banda-centric world view. Which speck of real estate in this image was once worth more than their rent-controlled apartment? You’ll leave them stumped for sure…

Click “Planet Banda”, below, then “Add to Cart” to order a 20″x20″ inch print, shipped anywhere in the world. Just $50!

A "little planet" projection of a 360-degree panorama from the summit of Gunung Api volcano, Banda Islands, Maluku. Pulau Run -- the distant island at 5 o'clock in this image -- was once traded for Manhattan. (Djuna Ivereigh)

A "little planet" projection of a 360-degree panorama from the summit of Gunung Api volcano, Banda Islands, Maluku. Pulau Run — the distant island at 5 o'clock in this image — was once traded for Manhattan. (Djuna Ivereigh)

Ain’t No Tree High Enough

Even the world’s farthest reaches feel the sway of global forces

“Djuna, we need MoluccaNuts for the President of America!”

I choked on my passion fruit juice. “Um, MoluccaNuts for George W. Bush?”

“Yes, that President,” said Naldo, founder of a Maluku conservation group. “You must get kenari.”

A big kenari tree was my introduction to the rainforest canopy, back in 1998. In Indonesia’s Maluku Islands, I hooked up with bird trappers feeding world demand for exotic pets. In search of endemic, salmon-crested cockatoos, the trappers scaled 50-meter trees on wobbly iron stakes. Great system, if you’re built like a forest pygmy. But when a stake popped out from under me, I knew I needed ropes.

At camp that night I taught Buce, the best climber, to tie a figure-8. But he didn’t see the point. On the principle that bigger is better, he improved the knot with lots more.

The next morning I stood at the bottom of a long rope, aiming binoculars up at Buce and a puzzling wad of macramé. I bounced on the line, hoped for the best, and clipped in with ascenders.

Big tree climbing is not like big wall climbing. One, there’s no wall blocking half your view. Spin around and you’re treated to a sweeping 360. Two, when you climb a tree, you climb an ecosystem. Your rope is a freeway for ants, you’ll be lucky to dodge the bees’ nest and even moderate winds set you swaying in confused canopy seas.

At the top of the rope, my ascender hit Buce’s tangle of rigging—well below where I needed to get off. To Buce’s horror, I began untying his masterpiece. I was relieved to find an actual figure-8 beneath the knotty equivalent of 108, but Buce was not. Ignoring my protests, he grabbed my harness and hoisted me onto a branch, dragging my puny knot behind me.

That day in the kenari I learned that Buce knows more about his forest than scientists do. He knows every bird call and what some of them mean. When doves cooed, he yodeled to friends who dashed beneath the roost and speared a pig for dinner. And he knew that salmon-crested cockatoos were getting rare. Before I rapped out of that kenari, Buce and I had plotted an ecotourism project.

The rainforest canopy platform we built had an “if you build it, they will come” attraction. We had no phones or internet, but word spread quickly through the backpacker grapevine. Within weeks, bird trappers vowed to protect wildlife as a tourism commodity and kicked out a village head in cahoots with illegal loggers. Things were looking up—until the war.

When President Suharto was ousted by unrest, Maluku fell apart. So in 2001 I teamed up with Naldo to find alternative income for bird trappers. Enter MoluccaNuts, our trade name for the macadamia-like kernels of kenari fruits.

We had the name, the packer, the labels, the licenses and about a thousand bucks. All we needed was a metric ton of kenari from an island where it grows on trees. And publicity. In Tennessee, a golf resort owner offered help. As Naldo explained, the President of America was coming. Could we serve MoluccaNuts? Hey, if George could do for kenari what Jimmy did for peanuts…

After a year with no guests, I climbed back up to our canopy platform, where I was met by two rewards. First, there were birds. Lots of birds! The ex-trappers weren’t making money, but they were sticking to their commitments. By sunset, a cockatoo and hundreds of great-billed parrots swarmed in to roost. Second, there were nuts. Our platform was covered with kenari kernels, crapped out by all the birds. Clearly, I’d hit peak season.

But there was a hitch—it was also peak season for cloves. Under Suharto’s reign, no one cared about cloves. The president’s son, Tommy, monopolized the market, refusing to pay what they were worth. But now Tommy, charged with murdering the judge who convicted him for corruption, was on the lam. As the nation played “Where’s Tommy?” (odd sightings reported at shopping malls and the like) the price of cloves jacked up 35 fold.

I’d come for the trees and stayed for the people. Little did I know they’d teach me so much about armed conflict and corrupt dynasties.

Maluku, a.k.a. the “Spice Islands”, is the native home of cloves. This is what Magellan was after when he set sail around the world, kick-starting globalization. Now, recalling a scene from centuries past, locals were on a “clove rush”. Fishers and farmers scrambled up trees in old, neglected plantations, shaking down clove buds and laying them out to dry. The village smelled heavenly but there wasn’t a bite to eat. Production of anything non-clove stopped.

Joining the fray, I put my new satellite phone to use. Fittingly, the first call ever placed from that corner of the Spice Islands directed a clove ship into port. By brokering a sale straight to Surabaya the village got top price. Which made it even less likely that George Bush would eat MoluccaNuts.

Villagers stuffed that Surabaya ship so full of cloves that it broke the dock, then the reef. But no one cared. They were hauling in 6 billion rupiah. My 10 million on offer for hard-to-crack kenari now seemed like peanuts. But how many nuts can a president eat? I collected a few bird droppings and shipped them out FedEx.

Some weeks later, I boarded a ferry to Jakarta. I wondered if I might find an email from the President of America, requesting more MoluccaNuts. But fellow ferry-goers crushed that fantasy. “Kasihan WTC!” they said. Pity about WTC? The World Trade Center? What about it?

On the boat over the next three days I heard a thousand rumors—and no official reports—on 9/11. The world had watched war unfold live on TV, while I sat in a tree, watching bird of paradise.

The email awaiting me was an old one from Tennessee. The golf club owner received the nuts and would be serving them to the President. On September 11.

On that day Americans played “Where’s George?” And Air Force One did not serve MoluccaNuts.


Creative Commons License
Ain’t No Tree High Enough, © Djuna Ivereigh, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Excerpts may be reproduced with a credit to DjunaPix Indonesia Photography, linked to http://blog.djunapix.com/2010/05/wild/seram-rainforest-canopy/.