In a neighbourhood of Kingston called Zimbabwe, a soldier shows me a handful of bullets he just dug up in his backyard. Often, during times of ceasefire, gang members bury their weapons and ammunition near their homes to avoid police detection.
Some programs have been created to give locals opportunities to make a living outside of gang life in the slums. Great Britain has set up a school to teach locals how to make pottery right inside the slum area. The pottery is sold all over the world. Local gang leaders support the projects with hopes that many people will escape their chosen lifestyle. This young man, a student of the school, is cleaning some clay prior to sculpting.
A woman and her children sit outside their home/supermarket. Many of the slum residents set up grocery stores in their homes in order to make some money to survive. The government of Jamaica is now cracking down on these stores, suggesting they are illegal due to the fact the people operating them do not have licences. The problem is, the residents do not make enough money to afford a business licence.
Living 3 doors down from my short term residence, this dog often patrolled the neighbourhood of Mexico, Kingston, Jamaica. Going by the name of "Dog", he was born without the lower part of his rear limb and has been hobbling around this small cul-de-sac for the past 9 years.
In an attempt to get gangs from different neighbourhoods to get along, football games are put on between rival groups. As seen here, fights often break out mid game between the teams due to fouls committed.
Leaders of a local gang pose in their home for a photo. After giving me a tour of their neighbourhood, "Rema", and showing me all the projects they are working on to make life better for residents, they took me up to their apartment to get this photograph. While showing me around, one member said, "If you didn't have that big camera, everyone would think we are training a new recruit." Rema has one of the highest rates of violence in all of the Kingston Slums. It borders Tivoli Gardens which is famous for Christopher Coke or "Dudus", an infamous drug lord who smuggled millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the USA. Since his incarceration in the USA, Tivoli Gardens has tried to expand into other slums and the gang members in Rema are the gate keepers preventing expansion.
"I was working at my store selling oil when a car drove by and started shooting", Junior, a senior gang member told me prior to showing me around Rema. He was hit 5 times, once in the hand, the hip, the back, the leg, and his ankle. He had been on crutches for 6 months at this point. "I wanted to quit the gang life", he went on to tell me. "It just wasn't the life for me, but then this happened. I guess I don't really have a choice now but to fight."
House of the Dead
"Ah, about a body a week," says the gang leader of Zimbabwe, while discussing the number of bodies that, at random, appear in this house. Gangs from all over Kingston leave the bodies of individuals they have killed in this house located in an area of Kingston called "Pretty Bush". The dirt patch around the house used to be covered in bushes, but these were bulldozed because bodies were often found scattered in the bushes, decaying. Some days, two or three bodies might show up in a night, especially during election time.
Football in the Street
Of course, football is popular in the slums of Kingston. Every day and every night, men and boys would be out in the street knocking the ball around, usually in bare feet. When the adult men played, the games could get rough. My house mates wouldn't let me play with the adults: "We are worried about your safety."
The largest market in Jamaica is located in downtown Kingston. I was always curious how anyone makes any money at these markets since everyone is selling the same stuff. There might be the odd difference, but the majority of the stuff is exactly the same. In this image of a clothing section of the market, the stalls are so close together and packed so tightly with shirts and pants, that it is difficult to find the 5 vendors in the picture.
Showering each day is a task in itself in the slums of Kingston. Lucky enough to even have running water in Mexico, (Zimbabwe did not have running water, everyone showered in the street at a common tap) Paul Rayner showers in the morning before he starts his day taking care of his 4 year old son. He is one of the privileged few to have a wall blocking the shower area; most shower in the open view of others in their yards. Without a shower tap, water is poured into the sink and scooped slowly out, bucket by bucket, to rinse and wash. The city wants residents of the slums to start paying for water. In order to motivate the residents to pay, they have started turning the water off randomly. During a 3 day period with temperatures reaching 40 celsius, we were without running water. Having prepared for this, we had filled up two 35 gallon barrels of water and just ran out when the water finally came back on.
A mother feeds her baby on the streets of Mexico, Jamaica. Her clothes represent the style of the Jamaican slums: colourful and heavy. Wearing a jacket and a large black hat, even in 38 degree weather, is common all over the slums. "It's about style", said one resident. "Sometimes you have to suffer to look good."
This photo was taken in the Zimbabwe slum, considered the poorest slum in Kingston.
One of the biggest pastimes in Jamaica is dominoes. It is cheap and everyone can play it. Games can get extremely aggressive with infuriated players often leaving the table. Although the competition may seem fierce, there is no money exchanged, dominoes is just a way to pass the time.
Riddled with Bullets
This photo depicts the remnants of the battle to take Tivoli Gardens and bring down Dudus. A sniper working for Dudus tried to fight off police as they tore through the city in an attempt to find Dudus for the United States government. After a quick battle, the sniper was removed.
Kids play soccer on a makeshift field in the Zimbabwe slum. The decaying buildings and the children's lack of footwear shows the horrible conditions in which these children grow up. This is in the capital city of a country known for beaches, parties, and paradise. These children, however, are about an hour drive from any kind of beach that would have safe enough water in which to swim.
Guns for Peace
The gang leader of Zimbabwe, Mexico, and two other slums, poses for a picture with one of his lieutenants in his wife's bedroom before heading out that night to deal with a rival gang. His gang was at war with another gang who were trying to take over Mexico, which is considered "The Beverly Hills of the Slums". We stayed in Mexico during the project and were informed to be careful, as we did not ask the rival leader if I was welcome there.
Illegal lotteries are a way for individuals to pay for food for their family. Using the legal lottery numbers, held several times a week, one local family runs the lottery in each slum allowing individuals the chance to bet whatever they can afford (or have) on the numbers.
Vietnam: Bear Bile Farming
Numbered like a prisoner, this bear has become so bored it rubs its head on the bars of the cage. This leads to deformation of their face and hair loss.
As seen in Vice Magazine 2015. A local cafe owner holds a small vial of bile in his shop. Prices have plummeted in Vietnam over the past 5 years and this bottle is worth about a dollar now. The man tried to give me a vial as a souvenir as I left his cafe. I politely declined.
A bear examines me with no aggression as I take its picture on a bile farm in northern Vietnam.
Small Bile Farm
A small bile farm located in a man's garage about 45 minutes northwest of Hanoi.
Relief from the heat
A bear attempts to cool himself by lying on his back in his tiny cage on a bile farm.
Several vials of bile sit in a small cardboard box. They are kept in the freezer to keep them from breaking down.
Vietnam: Tu Lan Caves
Exit of Ken Cave
As seen in the Globe and Mail 2014. The exit of Ken Cave is an extraordinary site after leaving a forrest of tightly woven columns.
Travelling between caves in this little known part of the world is no easy feat. Trekking in thick untouched jungle is one of the highlights of visiting this area.
Into the Abyss
A fellow caver examines the wall of Ken Cave, while hanging over the river. Swimming through this river is the only way in and out of Ken Cave.
One of hundreds of columns in the Tu Lan Cave System
The exit of Tu Lan Cave is illimunatied by the cavers headlamps and some outside light.
Canada: Little Nahanni River
A paddler receives a wash from a strong wave while paddling the Little Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
As seen in Canoe and Kayak, Canoeroots and Sidetracked Magazine
After a flight through a summer arctic storm, the gear was unloaded and the plane prepared to leave the paddling team alone in the arctic wilderness for the next 14 days.
Into Crooked Canyon
Two experts paddle a canoe through one of the most intense canyons along the Little Nahanni River.
Through the Canyon
Paddlers barrow through a class IV rapid in Crooked Canyon.
After line dragging the boats, paddlers check the gear for damage.
Paddlers are forced to line drag the boats past "The Step," a class V rapid.
A camper cooks dinner in a firebox. It is illegal to light fires on the ground in several wilderness parks located in Canada to prevent fire scarring.
The final section of Crooked Canyon.
China: The Great Wall
As seen in the Globe and Mail 2014. Hiking up the Wall often was similar to rock climbing due to how steep it could get. At one point, I wondered if the soldiers use to toboggan down the wall.
The view as we hiked down into the village of Huanguacheng. The Wall continues on for 3 days before reaching the next village.
Steps of the Wall
Steps leading to steeper areas of the Wall. The Wall constantly went up and down mountains and valleys. The time and work that must have gone into building it is ridiculous.
Tower and Wall
Towers that were solace against the heat stood every couple hundred metres. In this picture you can see the forrest trying to take back the Wall.
Many of the towers had caved in on themselves, yet the Wall still stands in either direction.
The Wall back to Zhuangdaokou. The Wall runs from the Korean border all the way to the Gobi desert, almost 9,000 kilometres!
China: Rice Terraces
As seen in the Globe and Mail 2015. The Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces of Guangxi, China. The terraces flow down the 1,000 metre mountains like a green river.
Rice is a staple of Asia and China consumes and produces more rice than any other country in the world.
The terraces are still farmed in Guangxi. Visiting them for the beauty is great, but there is an education factor involved if a person is interested.
As seen in the Globe and Mail 2015. Traditionally dressed Yao women wandered the terraces helping tourists with their bags and sometimes even carrying children in the wicker baskets hung on their backs.
The Whole Valley
The terraces reach up and out of the valley.
Witnessing either sunrise and sunset at the rice terraces is a magnificent experience. When the sun breaks through the clouds and lights the terraces a person can do little but stare.
Old and New
As seen in The Globe and Mail 2015. A traveller in Koh Ker examines some ruins that have been claimed by the surrounding forrest.
Gopura IV Prasat Preah Vihear
As seen in The Globe and Mail 2015. The first Gopura seen by travellers to the ruin site. Behind the temple, the mountain drops off and a steep climb down leads to the border of Thailand.
As seen in The Globe and Mail 2015. A tree has grown up and out of a temple located in Koh Ker. Several buildings in the area had massive trees like this one growing right through the deteriorating stone formations.
As seen in The Globe and Mail 2015. Monks still remain at Prasat Preah Vihear. They collect offerings from locals and the few tourists that visit in exchange for blessings.
View from Below
The roots coming down from the tree are so thick that it is impossible to see the ground below.
Ride up a mountain
As seen in The Globe and Mail 2015. The 20 minute ride up to Prasat Preah Vihear is an experience all on its own. With parts at a 30 degree incline, the road can seem a little intimidating. Along the road, soldiers live in shanty shacks and are more than grateful for gifts of cigarettes and food.
Canada: The Battery
A fishing boot rests where it was left over a decade ago. As people stopped using the fishing sheds in The Battery the sheds started to decay and what was left in them still remains.
A puffin with his fill of fish off the coast of Grimsey Island, Iceland. Grimsey Island is the only part of Iceland within the Arctic Circle, and is home to a large number of puffins, arctic terns, and sheep.
On the Runway
A puffin runs across the Atlantic Ocean attempting to use the wind off the water to take off.
This puffin was wandering the areas of Látrabjarg Cliffs, Iceland. The puffins are extremely used to humans in this area, showing little fear. This little one hopped up on my shoe while I was taking his photo.
Tourists flock to Iceland and Newfoundland every spring and summer to see the colourful puffins. Their beaks however, are only this colour during the spring and summer months when they are on land. During the rest of the year, puffin beaks are dull like their plumage, making it difficult for predators to spot them in the open ocean.
A puffin waits for its mate to return from fishing. While one puffin flies out to feed, the other will wait at the nest to protect their home from opportunistic puffins looking to move up the cliff.
A mating pair of puffins sit idly passing the day above their nest on Látrabjarg Cliffs, Iceland.
Svaritfoss, located in Skaftafell National Park, was my favourite waterfall in Iceland. Trying to take a picture of this waterfall was a headache. I enjoy the silky water look of a long exposure and was trying to get a nice shot of Svaritfoss, but every time I set up and opened my shutter, some other "photographer" with a tripod would set up right in front of me, ruining the shot! I got so fed up, I took off my pants, walked into the river, planted my tripod, and then waited for about four 30 second exposures. I definitely got some looks that day.
Beauty in every direction
Everywhere I looked while driving in Iceland there was something that was worth a second glance. It is a magical country with some of the best scenery I have ever seen. This was taken just outside the capital Reykjavik.
Jokulsarlon ice lagoon was one of my favourite locations. I could have spent a week here shooting the ice. As the ice breaks off of a glacier, it travels to the ocean a few hundred meters away. I grabbed this shot of three very different icebergs before they broke apart into the ocean.
Iceland's summer sun does not set until well after midnight. I usually travelled at night so that when I arrived at most locations I was the only one there. When I was at the far side of Dettifoss, I was one of only two people there. Once I was alone, I took this picture using the timer on my camera and some fast feet.
This is one of two "STOP THE CAR!" pictures from this trip. I was driving along Iceland's north coast when I saw this picture waiting to be taken. I pulled over and ran across the road to snap this shot. I had to stand in the middle of the highway, but due to Iceland's small population, especially outside the capital, I had little fear of being hit by oncoming traffic.
While hiking near Skogafoss, I saw the clouds coming over the mountains. This reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings. Wrong continent, but still pretty great looking.
Skaftafellsjökul glacier, located in Skaftafell National Park.
Near the town of Vik, these two seastacks stand out in the ocean along side this smaller version of Giant's Causeway. The story goes that when trolls tried to help a stranded ship by towing it to shore, the sun came up and turned them to stone out in the ocean.
Larger than a few houses
This iceberg in the same glacier lagoon was about 7 stories high and about 20 meters wide. One of the best parts about shooting in Iceland is that the sunset lasts for about 3 hours, so shooting during sunset takes on a whole different meaning here.
One of the many great waterfalls in Iceland. Shooting these is easy, there is so much natural beauty about them. The hard part, getting the photo without 30 other tourists or photographers in the frame.
One of Hundreds
Lighthouses were everywhere in Iceland. This one was found in a lava field on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
After hearing about a "secret" hotpot, I drove down a random road for 45 minutes to find this waterfall, and luckily, the hotpot. In a lot of other places in the world, this waterfall would be a big highlight to anyone's trip, but in Iceland, this waterfall did not even qualify to have a sign pointing in its direction.
This pool, where a scene from Game of Thrones was shot, had signs all over saying not to swim in it. After placing my hand in it, I realized the water was hot! I later spoke to a local tour bus driver who told me the water here is well over 68 degrees Celsius.
Road Less Travelled
This river in western Iceland was quite far off the beaten track. After visiting here, we heard of some lava tubes nearby and took the F-Road to visit them. F-Roads are made for 4x4 vehicles only, but our little 4 door hatchback handled this one pretty well.
This is the other "STOP THE CAR!" picture. While driving in the Westfjords of Iceland, I caught a glimpse of this small farm being lit by the sunlight from over the mountains. Another Iceland bonus - the sun barely moved across the sky for over 20 minutes while I snapped shot after shot of this perfect light.