The Visual Advocate Blog

The baker of Dire Dawa

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I love getting to shoot stories about people around the world that are using their skills and passions to be a blessing to those who are in the greatest need. While I was in Ethiopia I got to spend a couple of hours (I wish I would have have had a couple of days!) shooting some images for a story of such a person. Her name is Hayat and she is a baker. The greatest thing about Hayat is not the incredible food she makes, and it is incredible, it is how she is using what she has to be a holistic blessing to those around her. Here are some of the images.

Hayat takes a short break from her work. She is truly a woman of joy.

Hayat prays for the needs of one her customers.

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The DR-1 Double Strap: A review and giveaway

The DR-1 Double Strap from my friends and sponsor BlackRapid is an incredible option for photographers shooting with two cameras.

Last month I spent three weeks trekking volcanoes, riding in African buses, and shooting portraits and humanitarian images in Ethiopia and there was rarely a second when I was not wearing my DR-1 Double Strap. While I already knew that Blackrapid made the best straps on the planet, this trip just made even more convinced!

I love the comfort and convenient access the DR-1 Double Strap gives me to my cameras at all times.

I love the DR-1 for many reasons but what clearly sets this strap apart in my mind is how comfortable and convenient it is to wear and adjust. No matter how I was positioned or what I was shooting on this last trip, the DR-1 was just so comfortable and made it so easy to quickly access my cameras.

It took me a few minutes initially to figure out how to adjust the straps and how to turn the DR-1 into a one-camera sling. However, once I got used to how things worked I had no trouble at all quickly making adjustments to how the straps hung or sat, even with it on. For more great images of how the strap sits and is configured, check out the great review by my friend and fellow photographer Brian Hirschy.

The fasteners and carabiners BlackRapid uses stay tightly connected to your cameras so you can carry them with peace of mind.

Beyond the amazing comfort and convenience, I love how the way the DR-1 connects to my cameras. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the first couple times I didn’t keep checking the fasteners and carabiners every two seconds just to make sure they were tight. However, after hours and hours of carrying my cameras with this strap, and never once having an issue with the fasteners loosening, I rarely check now.

Some people might have a tough time with the price, but not me. This strap is worth its weight in gold!

As for the cons, I have to be completely honest and say I can’t really think of any. There are things that take some getting used to when you first get this strap but that is true of everything new. After having used so many straps over the years, even cheaper knock-offs trying to be the DR-1, I am just impressed and have a hard time finding things to improve.

I know for some the list price of $129.95 may be a stumbling block, but let me assure you it will be the best $129.95 you ever spend on a strap. If you still aren’t convinced or simply can’t stop drinking Starbucks long enough to say up the money, then leave a comment on my blog and you may just be the lucky winner who scores the one DR-1 Double Strap that our friends at BlackRapid have agreed to give the readers of my blog!

I promise if you are the lucky winner, once you put this strap on and carry your cameras you will never want to take it off and you will never have a bad day again. (ok, maybe that’s taking it too far, but I still don’t think you will want to use another strap again!)

I will be traveling for the next week and am planning to announce who the one lucky winner is next Friday so make sure to get on leave a comment!

Happy commenting!


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Can’t miss offers for May from Thinktank Photo!

When you order a rolling camera bag from the Airport Series between now and May 31, 2012 you receive an Artificial Intelligence™ 15inch V2.0 or Artificial Intelligence™ 17inch V2.0 laptop bag!

I know we are already fully into May now but I wanted to clue you into an amazing deal from the awesome folks at Think Thank Photo. The deal is this: Order their Airport Security V2.0, Airport International V2.0, Airport Airstream, or Airport TakeOff rolling camera bags before May 31, 2012 and you will receive one of their Artificial Intelligence V2.0 laptop sleeves for free This is a $59 value.

These bags are widely considered the best designed and most durable bags in the industry. All of the rollers share three levels of security (TSA approved combination locks, front laptop cable and lock, and back cable and lock for securing entire bag to fixed object).  They employ the highest grade materials, including all fabric exterior treated with DWR (underside fabric underside is coated with PU for superior water resistance), 1680D ballistic nylon, abrasion resistant YKK® RC Fuse zippers, custom designed extra tall skid plates, replaceable in-line skate wheels, antique nickel-plated metal hardware, nylon webbing,  and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

The Airport takeoff is just one of the sweet bags that are part of this month’s offer from Thinktank Photo!

Another thing I love is that these bags are made to fit international carry-on standards which means we can actually keep our gear with us instead of handing them over to someone else who doesn’t care about our stuff nearly as much as we do!

Finally, I love that all of this awesome gear is covered by Thinktank Photo’s “No Rhetoric Warranty”, and great customer service. If you are looking to buy a roller before you head out this summer, this is a great time to do so!


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May Desktop Wallpaper

I wanted to try and have this out on May 1st but I was still on a plane at that time. Since then I have been swamped with processing images and getting caught up so finally I am getting this up.

The clouds in Ethiopia were just awesome and here is one image of some of them over a volcanic lake with a lone fisherman. To download the full-size image just click on the image below to open it up in another window.


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Guest Post: Heber Vega and the One-Shot Project

I want to thank Joe for giving me the opportunity to share about the most exciting and inspirational project that I have ever been part of. As I’ve been thinking through different aspects of The ONE-SHOT Project, I want to encourage other people out there, photographers, artists and anyone, to believe that a sound idea pursued with the right motivation and key people, can become a new starting point for your life. More than that, it can become a life-changing situation for people who are eager for the opportunity.

Let’s talk about the heart
In one of the darkest hours of my life, I doubted every aspect of my life and work (both my NGO work in Iraq and my photography). Feeling crushed by my own beliefs, I had one of the most sincere and honest conversations with my partner in life, my wife Belen. You see, although we had a beautiful life in Iraq, serving people through a number of social development projects, and had a wonderful family and three great sons, and were living what seemed to be a “dream life” for many, that day we realized we weren’t satisfied with the things we were investing our lives in. There was nothing wrong with our jobs, but there was clearly a problem with our inner visions, with the fulfillment of who we think we are and what we were created to do. That day, we recognized that we weren’t living our lives to the fullest.

That was the genesis of ONE-SHOT. Our darkest hours were the spark that is
lighting our way today. If you are in the middle of an identity crisis, that could be a perfect point to make a u-turn into a new beginning for your life. The important thing is to learn how to find direction in those hard moments, seek the right voice, and always keep in mind that life is about giving; our happiness depends on that specific base.

The closing ceremony for the 2011 One-Shot project workshop.

So, what is ONE-SHOT?
It’s not an organization. It’s not an NGO. The way I see it, it is an ‘organic’
concept or idea, put into practice by particular people, in a particular place. The
aim is to provide an opportunity, a chance, a SHOT if you will. In this case we
happen to be talking about some photographers, artists and my own family,
using photography as a means to serve and empower the children we work with.

An One-Shot Project image by Dyar.

Why children?
-We have about 4 million orphaned children in Iraq. Knowing that fact has moved our hearts.
-Children are our future.
-They will have the power to shape our world.
-They have an incredible eye for seeing the world we live in, in a totally unique way that is worth preserving.

A One-Shot Project image by Dyar.

Our ONE-SHOT students lack of opportunity, trust, and training. To be given a
gift of these things… makes a better future for the children, or a future at all.

A One-Shot Project image by Hamza.

What about that ‘organic’ thing?
I don’t know how else to express this idea, but we are talking about something that grows and develops without being dependent on an organization for it’s very existence. Individuals collaborate to make it a reality. There’s nothing wrong with organizations. They have a place. But I feel that there’s also a need for initiatives that are carried out by us, the ‘regular’ people of this world. We have learned to depend on governments and organizations, but there is beauty created when people, for no personal gain whatsoever, try to make this world a better place to live. That’s inspiring and we need a lot of that.

A One-Shot Project image by Hussain.

At ONE-SHOT, people that we know have been raising funds, and investing their own time and money to share this idea. Most importantly, they have been spreading the word to their own circles. You can read at our blog about people hosting dinners to raise some funds, or asking their wedding shower guests to participate. That’s why I feel so inspired about ONE-SHOT.

A One-Shot Project image by Shabaz.

You don’t need an .ORG behind your idea to start changing your world. You
know people, you have a great idea, and you can make it happen. It’s all
about working honestly and passionately with your idea. People are not
indifferent; they will join you.

A One-Shot Project image by Bzhar.

Who are working with ONE-SHOT?
We are Muslims and Christians; Easterners and Westerners. Any ‘type’ of person
who wants to collaborate is welcome. We do have a lot of photographers helping
us to spread the word about our current workshops and needs. We do also have
other artists helping to do the same thing. Donations have come from all over
the globe. But the people behind all tweets, posts and articles are myself and
Erin Wilson.

A One-Shot Project image by Sizar.

If you only remember one thing, remember this…
I’m not asking for your money although that would help. I’m not asking for your
time, although that would make a difference to some people in Iraq. And I’m not
asking you to join us, although that would be fantastic and would be a step
forward in providing an opportunity for some of the children that we want to
serve.

Not, what I’m telling you today is this: take a minute and think. Think about your life and reflect on how you are spending those very precious minutes of your life. Are you making any positive difference? Are you leaving the world anything worth keeping? Are you leaving anything at all?

A One-Shot Project image by Sizar.

I’m not asking you to come to Iraq; I’m telling you to look around right where you are. Is there anything that you can make better right there? Is there anything you can do that would make a positive change? Does the word ‘redemption’ ring a bell? Is there anything worth trying? Is there anyone who could benefit from your effort?

A One-Shot Project image by Tuana.

I’m totally, 100% sure that I CANNOT change this world… I can’t change you either, and I wouldn’t even dream that I could change the hard reality for millions of people living in despair. But what I can do is to NOT give up! To think that it’s not worth trying, or that I’m better off living a life blind to the things that really matter and happen to our own people… that would be tragic.

Today, with all my limitations, I believe that dreams like ONE-SHOT are worth the investment of my life and yours, my time and yours… even if it doesn’t bring change to a whole nation. Why? Because the change has been made in US at that point. In US! You are smashing the status quo. You are not letting the obvious reign over you… you have somehow defied the law of gravity pulling down much of this sad world.|

Go… and give that one shot to yourself.


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Fun on Mount Entoto

I just wanted to write a quick post before I head out of Addis for about a week. Yesterday I made my way up to the top of Mount Entoto which yielded beautiful views of Addis and the surrounding valleys. In many ways the rolling green valleys and peaks reminded of Oregon.

At the top of Mount Entoto, which is 10,489 feet, there are communities of people living, ancient Orthodox churches and even a church in a cave that they told is over 700 years old.

I am going to try to post again but I am not sure what the internet will be like outside of Addis. Here are a couple of images from the last few days.

The road heading up to top of Mount Entoto is quite steep yet you will see school children, elderly woman carrying huge loads of wood on their back and many others making the trip.

This elderly gentleman was a guard on the grounds of the palace that is at the top of Mount Entoto.


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Checking in from Ethiopia

After three long flights I made it to Ethiopia last night just in time to go to bed. I don’t know about you but I never sleep well on planes so I welcomed the sleep. This morning we hired a guide and walked around Addis Ababa a bit just getting a feel for the city and the people. Our guide was overly cautious about taking images of people or having both of my cameras out in the markets so while I did a little shooting I mostly did some scouting of the different areas.

Here are a couple of images from today. I hope to post more but am not sure how the internet will be once we get out of Addis.

This shopkeeper and his employee loved my business cards. I got to give props to the folks at MOO.com because everywhere I go people love my cards.

At first this Muslim man said no when I asked if I could take his picture but after I spent time in his shop talking with him about his love of soccer, his family and other things he finally asked me to take his picture. He told me I am the only photographer that he has let take his picture.

If you visit Ethiopia you must have some Injera, it is pretty good!

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