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Thailand

Thailand – the Land of Smiles – is a country that I felt even before stepping foot there. Upon boarding the Thai Airways plane in Hong Kong, I was greeted with the “wai” gesture, a smile and “Sawatdee-kah.” This welcoming feeling would be repeated and last throughout my journey through Thailand. When the world gets back to normal, I highly suggest experiencing this country for yourself. Please know that this trip occurred in pre-pandemic times. Although Thailand has fared better than other countries, I do not have any first-hand knowledge of the current situation there.

Travel tips

  • Phone – start by buying an international plan for your phone. Verizon is rather reasonable at $10/day. Having the data so that you can use Google Maps is a must for me when I travel internationally.
  • Money – download a foreign currency exchange app for your phone so that you can save yourself the pain of having to wonder if you are getting ripped off or not. ATMs are rather abundant and most places accept credit card, but will depend on where you are at.
  • Transportation – download the app called Grab. This is basically Uber in Thailand and works just as well. However, I highly suggest renting a scooter while you are there too. There is something about experiencing a country while riding a scooter and being in the open air. I rented one in Krabi and drove along the beach every day, and also explored nearby temples, all with the scooter. In terms of flying in Thailand, it is very cheap in comparison to flying within the US. My one-way flights were between $50-$120. However, the luggage limitations are rather strict. On some flights I paid just as much to take my roller case of photography gear as I did to fly myself to the destination. Travel as light as possible. But either way, domestic air travel is very reasonable.
  • Where to stay – you are going to find some amazing deals in Thailand. You can get a 4-star hotel in Bangkok for less than $140. But there are also a lot of great finds on Airbnb. It really depends on where you want to stay and what type of experience you want.
  • Where to go – I went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Krabi. Out of those three, I would put Chiang Mai first. It’s not as flashy as Bangkok, but there are many cultural things to experience there. I suggest checking out the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, take in a muay thai fight, a cabaret show, and then walk down the aisles of food vendors and try one of everything.
  • Food – there are two great ways to experience Thai food that I discovered. One is to go to the night markets. This is a great way to see Thai food being prepared and you have a vast amount of options. There were great night markets in Chiang Mai and Krabi. Another way is to take a Thai cooking class. Go to Airbnb and go to the “experiences” category for your location and you should see options for Thai cooking classes. I did one in Chiang Mai where we went to the market, picked out the food and then prepared everything from scratch. During the whole process, the instructor gave background and explanations on each ingredient. This is a great way to learn about the depth and flavors of Thai cuisine.

I also have another blog post from my stay at the Chai Lai Orchid, an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai. You can check it out here. http://josheskridge.com/blog/the-chai-lai-experience

Voices of the Unheard

This blog post is a documentary of the peaceful protests that took place – and continue to take place – in Hartford in May and June 2020. Within each of us there is an ability to help others be seen, felt and heard.

Please check back for updates.

The Chai Lai experience – Help feed the elephants

Imagine thatched roof mountain bungalows perched atop a gentle rolling hill amongst foggy mountains in the northern Thailand province of Chiang Mai. You wake up to take a heated open-air shower in your bungalow, while hearing the symphony of jungle fauna coming to life. You walk outside on the balcony because you hear some rustling in the bushes. You realize that you have somebody joining you for breakfast… and he wants all the bananas. Your breakfast companion is Nam Phet, an adult elephant. This may sound like a mythical destination, but The Chai Lai Orchid is an actual place. It may seem like the world’s most Instagram-able place – and it may actually be that too – but the core and soul of Chai Lai is what makes it a beautiful organization. The Chai Lai Orchid is an eco-friendly organization which rescues elephants that have been abused in tourist shows or other organizations. It offers the opportunity to interact with elephants in an ethical, natural way while learning about them at the same time. Chai Lai Orchid also partners with Daughters Rising Thailand, whose mission is to rescue women from neighboring countries and parts of Thailand where they are at risk of being sex trafficked. Chai Lai Orchid serves as a safe house for these individuals, where at the same time, they learn business-related life skills that will help them at Chai Lai and beyond.

The images and video were captured in 2019 when I spent 4 days there. As I am typing this in April 2020, the world is in the throes of the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. As almost all travel has been shut down, it is serving a hard hit to the elephant tourism industry of Thailand. The money that would be coming in from visiting guests has been eliminated; therefore, the funds for feeding elephants has gone away. I hope that someday you have the opportunity, just as I did, to visit and experience Chai Lai, but I also hope that if you have the means that you will consider donating to this organization in their time of unprecedented need. The link is below to donate. Thank you all for visiting this page!

LINK TO DONATE https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/savechailaiorchid/daughtersrisinginc

Iceland

I rarely use the term “epic” to describe something anymore. Iceland, however, is going to be an exception. I had seen the other-wordly imagery coming from photographers that had visited Iceland, so I went there with high expectations. Those expectations were surpassed.  I spent 8 days traveling along the the Southern coast of Iceland in an SUV.  I chose to go in the late Spring time (mid-May).  I found this to be beneficial from a photography and exploring standpoint that I had 20 hours of daylight to work with every day.  And even during the night, there was still available light that could be used for long-exposure captures.  I would often literally wear myself out during the day taking pictures, get to my AirBnb around 11, only to go back out and start taking pictures at midnight.  Beware… Iceland might have the same effect on you!  The pictures and video that you see here are how I saw and experienced the land of fire and ice.  

Feel free to reach out to me through my website contact page if you have any questions about traveling to Iceland! 

Facts and traveler tips for photographers:

  • 1 day in Reykjavik is all you need.  Get out and see the rest of Iceland.
  • Money – When you’re traveling around Iceland, the best bet is to have a credit card, debit card and cash.  Gas stations are sometimes far between.  Sometimes there will not be an attendant at the gas station, and the pumps will only accept debit cards.  This is one of the most important tips in this list.  Have your debit card with you! 
  • Rent an SUV.  There are going to be times when you’ll want to spend more time in places than what you would think.  Having your own means of travel is the most ideal.
  • Gas averaged the equivalent of $7.50 USD/gallon.  It’s Iceland.  It is what it is… and it’s still worth it. 
  • There are great deals on both hotels.com and AirBnb.  Sometimes they are the same.  There are some that have breakfast included, and that can help cut down on your daily expenses.  I found rates to be very reasonable.  I could find great deals between the $80-$140 range.  In comparison to other expenses, this was reasonable.
  • Food costs are going to run high.  Food in Iceland wasn’t the most memorable part of the trip either… sorry, Iceland!  A fish stew (one of their nationally known dishes) will run about $25 USD.  A burger and a beer will be about $30.  Prices in convenience stores and gas stations were more reasonable.  If you’re somewhat strategic about it, you can manage the costs probably better than I did. 
  • You are going to want to bring a tripod for sure. 
  • Rain gear for your camera will come in handy as well.  Getting near the waterfalls will prove challenging in terms of keeping the water droplets off your lens. 
  • A neutral density filter will be useful for allowing longer exposure times. 
  • Drone photography – if you’re looking to get into that area of photography, then a trip to Iceland can be the perfect opportunity.  The vantage points and things that you can capture with a drone are amazing. 

Marissa and Dave

 

“A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys and keys that fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; We can be loved for who we are and not who we are pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person, we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction.  When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life.”

‘Bridge Across Forever’ by Richard Bach

 

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Cuba Medio Libre

Cuba Medio Libre (half-free Cuba)…  it’s a spin on the expression and drink name that serves as a pun, a paradox and a true statement all at the same time.  It’s also the best way that I can describe the country in 3 words.  Cuba is in a state of limbo.  It has one foot in the past and one foot in the present.  The relationship with the US has taken steps forward and steps backward.  Cuba is 90 miles away from the tip of Florida, and a world away in terms of culture.  I think people in the US have a tendency to create assumptions of a country based upon what they’ve seen in the media, the type of government that a country has, pop culture, etc.  But I challenge anyone to go to Cuba and see if those assumptions are not constantly warped as you dig into the seeming endless layers of culture, identity and history that this country will throw at you. Cuba is challenging and perplexing, but it is also invigorating.  An area that I see this is by the way that one can experience history in Cuba.  In the United States, we view history on a linear basis.  Decades are clearly defined by their style, architecture, cars, etc.  In Cuba, history is seemingly circular.  One can experience different eras all at the same time.  You can be walking down the Malecón, viewing the dusty eroded facades of 19th century buildings juxtaposed with 16th century Spanish forts while hearing the buzz from taxis, which are cars from the 50s and 60s, sometimes decked out in black lights and blaring reggaeton.  It’s a lot to see.  It’s a lot to hear.  It’s a lot to absorb.  It’s an assault on the senses, and also an assault on your sense of the world.

Despite the political climate, Cuba is also a very welcoming country.  I felt safer here than any foreign country that I’ve traveled to.  The challenges with technology and communication are real.  However, I felt that also added to the experience of Cuba.  There is a sense of interdependence that a traveler will feel there after a couple of days.  Challenges are best overcome by communication and building relationships.  I found myself in some very unlikely circumstances, but also found support in the most unlikely of places.  Those were seemingly difficult challenges, which turned into experiences… which taught me a lot about a the people of Cuba.  I will never forget them.

I want to thank Alejandro Peñalver and Cubamodela modeling agency for collaborating with me and providing the talent for the photoshoots.  I want to thank Nayvis Fernandez, Carla Guiardinú Reyes, Gina Martínez and Brenda Estrada Enríquez for allowing me to showcase your beauty and talent in the streets of Havana.  I also want to thank Havana designer, Jose Luis, for collaborating with me on the shoot with Nayvis.

Part of my goal for this trip was to network and lay the foundation to create the opportunity that other photographers can experience shooting models and fashion in Cuba the way that I did.  Photographers who are interested in possibly participating in a fashion photography workshop in Havana later this year or early 2018, please reach out to me through email via my website at www.josheskridge.com

Cuba survival guide

A couple of days before hopping on a flight to Cuba from Miami, Trump made the announcement that he would be scaling back the progress with opening relations and easing travel restrictions that had started with the Obama administration.  At the time of writing this, there has not been any legislation or policies defined as to the exact limitations that are going to be in place.  So needless to say, it is tenuous at this point.  The focus of Trump is that he wants to eliminate individual tourist travel, and he wants to prohibit the patronage of US citizens with companies that are owned by the Cuban government (e.g. large hotels).  Companies and airlines have begun scaling back their options and frequency of travel to Cuba.  If you travel to Cuba, it has to be one of the 12 acceptable reasons for travel.  I’m pasting a link to the website on American Airline below that lists those reasons.  I booked my flight through American Airlines.  When you book, you will have to declare your reason for travel.  A travel counselor will call you before your trip; mine called about a week before.  There is no need to buy a visa until you get to the airport in Miami.  At the Miami airport, they have a special check-in station for Cuba, where you can purchase your visa for $100.  I recommend getting there at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time.

https://www.aa.com/i18n/plan-travel/destinations/cuba.jsp?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=cuba

Money – If you are a US citizen, you have to carry cash with you.  I contacted my bank before my trip, and they assured me that I would be able to use my debit card to access my checking account while in Cuba.  This was not the case at all, so please do not make the same mistake I did.  You will not be able to use any type of credit card or debit card if you’re a US citizen and you have a US bank.  Money transfer services, such as Western Union, are also challenging.  A US citizen cannot send money to another US citizen in Cuba, and even sending money to a Cuban citizen is challenging.  I suggest estimating the amount that you will need, and plan on worst-case scenario situations.  I always wear a money belt when I travel in foreign countries, where I keep my passport and money.  Do not keep your money all in one place, and do not carry it all on you at one time, unless you need to.  I would suggest making sure that you always have plenty of small bills on you.  It can be challenging, for example, when you need a taxi ride, as they will often say that they do not have change for your bill, which may or may not be the case.

Cell phones – It’s best to use Cuba as an opportunity to disconnect.  I have Sprint, and even with their “international plan,” I ended up incurring charges of almost $200 in 1 day.  When I found that out, I told them to cut my line.  I went to a Cuban cell provider and purchased a Cuban line and cheap cell phone for about $80.  This was necessary for me because I had to communicate with several people while in Cuba to arrange photo shoots.  However, if it not necessary for you to communicate with people in Cuba by phone, then simply contact your cell provider beforehand and see how much it will be for an international package or just limit yourself to using the wifi hotspots and minimal texting.  Also, I recommend downloading a Cuba travel guide app for your phone prior to arriving in Cuba.  You will want one that you can use offline.  I tried downloading one while I was in Cuba and was not able to due to restrictions.

Internet – Let me start by saying that the internet is not free in Cuba.  Internet access is restricted to certain wifi hotspots in Havana, usually parks and hotels.  You will need to purchase a card from ETESCA.  That can be from several licensed stores or bodegas in Havana.  It has also become a popular business for people at the wifi spots to sell cards, for a profit obviously.  The cost of getting connected will run you about $2-$3 USD per hour.  My suggestion would be to go to Hotel Florida in Old Havana and purchase a card in the shop, then have a nice coffee while surfing the web.  Below is a useful guide to the current wifi situation in Havana.

https://insightcuba.com/blog/2017/03/05/havanas-wifi-hotspots-and-getting-online-cuba

Where to stay – I highly suggest using AirBnb in Cuba.  It can be a great way to have an authentic experience, and the hosts are amazing at providing valuable information that you’ll need during your trip.  The main challenge that I found is that I was not able to book AirBnb through the AirBnb app while in Cuba.  Therefore, you will need to have your whole trip booked before you arrive or have another means of booking it directly while in Cuba.

I want to thank my AirBnb hosts, Lidia and Fidel, for not only being welcoming hosts, but for being my guardian angels in Cuba.  The link to their AirBnb is below.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9173931?wl_source=list&wl_id=219923559&role=wishlist_owner&adults=1&children=0&infants=0

I also want to thank my 2nd AirBnb host, Eduardo, for having an amazing place in Old Havana and providing so much help and answering many questions during my stay.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g147271-d2436002-Reviews-Suite_Habana-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

Havana texture pack

Photographers are welcome to download and use the textures in the Dropbox folder below.  I only ask that you share my blog post if you do download them.

http://bit.ly/2v0FN22

 

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Morocco

My 2-week trek through Morocco in 2015 was a rich cultural experience where I got to see the various geographies and people of the country.  Morocco is a layered tapestry of history and cultures that have influenced the country over centuries, which include the Berbers, the Arabians and the Spanish.  There is something majestic about Morocco that draws its visitors in with a sense of enchantment and hospitality.  I started in Marrakesh and made a circle around the country, visiting Casablanca, Fez, Merzouga and the Sahara desert, and finished full-circle back in Marrakesh.

Enjoy the images and feel free to post any Morocco images or stories you may have!

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Amy and Drew

 

This is the story of a fairy tale wedding, caught on March 11th of 2016.  I could not have asked for a better couple or location to capture.  I don’t shoot many weddings, but the ones that I do I always view as unique and special.  I’m lucky to have couples that give me the leeway to capture their day in my own way.  Special thanks for Gary Barragan for backing me up as 2nd shooter.

Congrats to Amy and Drew and may you have a life full of happiness in each other’s comfort.

Message from Amy and Drew:

Drew and I are truly blown away with what Josh and Gary did with our wedding day. Talking to Josh beforehand about the feel I had envisioned was so easy… Because that’s WHY I picked Josh. I wanted our wedding to be art. An expression of how it feels to be around me and Drew: our personalities, our style, but most importantly our love for each other and the commitment we made on that day. One particular shot is truly beautiful in so many ways. Josh and Gary captured the true act of love in a picture of Ezekiel’s hands giving Drew the rings before the vows. This picture means more than a thousand words. Our wedding day was a day full of so much fun, creativity, gratitude, joy, family, and friends. It was very small and intimate, and with your all’s help, it really was a fairy tale. Thank you for your love and support as we embark on our new journey. Josh, you and Gary outdid yourselves. #teamshark Hair- Ana Catalina Perez, Dress made by- Lauren Woods

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