Home Features On the road to Kirtipur and Patan with my trusty Ricoh GR

On the road to Kirtipur and Patan with my trusty Ricoh GR

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Nepal has become one of my favourite holiday destinations. It is a perfect destination for the travel photographer, both in terms of scenery and the people’s friendliness and approachability. This article recounts my visit to two of the most interesting and historic cities: Kirtipur and Patan.

Kirtipur

Kirtipur, “the city of glory”, was one of the defensive outposts of the Mella capital city of Latipur, known today as Patan. The Mella and Shah dynasties ruled Nepal from 1200 to 1846.

The city was built on a hill in the twelfth century. Later, in 1769, it was conquered by a Gurkha king, Narayan Shah, after a terrible six-month siege. Because the Shah king was infuriated by this difficult conquest and looking for revenge, he ordered his soldiers to cut the nose and lips of each male inhabitant of Kirtipur. Only the wind instrument players were spared. Today as a reminder of those darker times, the locals still forbid the entry of their city to any member of the royal family,

Kirtipur is outside the traditional tourist route but is worth a visit. The 2015 earthquake has spared the city, and the medieval streets have kept their charm. The sacred cows still wander in the street, and people go about their business at a snail’s pace.

Click on images to enlarge and view a slideshow

The city is home to traditional craftsmen, mainly weavers and joiners and truly nice people we met during our visit. Today Nepal’s most important university has been built outside its wall, but we just had a glimpse of a local primary school outside the ramparts.

Patan

Latipur, “the city of beauty” and today’s Patan, is the Kathmandu valley’s oldest city. It was one of the three Mella royal cities with Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. It is linked with Buddhism and, according to local legends, was founded by the Indian emperor Ashoka (third century BCE). Four stupas mark the boundaries of the city. It developed largely between the 16th and 18th centuries under the control of the Malla dynasty. The Durbar square and the royal palace are some of the finest examples of Newari architecture.

What was particularly striking were the sculptures that decorate the temples and palace. The Newari are renowned for their carving abilities: wood or stone or bronze and even gold. Their works can be seen on display either in the museum, Nepal’s finest museum or on the monuments in Durbar Square or the royal palace.

Not far from Durbar Square are two magnificent temples. The Kumbeswar is dedicated to Shiva and attracts many Hindus. We were fortunate to visit it during religious celebrations, and families were gathered to celebrate.

The Golden Temple lies about 200 yards from Durbar Square. It houses a small Tibetan Buddhist temple on the first floor. Despite the small size, it displays beautiful copper sculptures, prayer wheels and butte-lamps.

As usual, I shot these images with my favourite travel camera, the Ricoh GR2. I mostly shot at 400 ISO and f /5.6 with single-point autofocus followed by recomposition. I used the positive film preset, but I’m aware the reddish hue might unsettle some of you. However, I think it lends a certain character to the images and a nice grainy texture

Read more travel articles by Jean Perenet

19 COMMENTS

  1. Your photos illustrate and bring the town to life nicely Jean, thanks. I particularly liked the one with the golden statue framed from what I assume was a balcony and that with the mirror. Nepal is a place I hope to visit one day. A good start to the weekend.

  2. Thanks Kevin for your kind comment. The statue image was indeed taken from a balcony. Nepal is indeed worth a visit. People are really friendly and welcoming. We stayed for a couple of weeks in the Kathmandu valley, which was good timing. Hope to return for a longer spell and visit places we did not have time to. For the time being travelling is limited to France hwoever there are nice places to explore.
    Enjoy the weekend and staysafe
    Jean

  3. Thanks Andrea for the kind comment. We went there last February and luckily came back just before the border closed because of the pandemic. Going to Asian countries is a total change from what we know in Europe regarding people’s characters, architecture and way of life. It is thoroughly enjoyable.
    Jean

  4. What a wonderful set of photos and story to explain them. I must say that both image 10 and 25 catch my attention – through the keyhole, and the final one. I usually love images of people, and their circumstances. However, through the key hole is just wonderfully framed, and the final shot is like the gates to freedom. I feel like sprinting at them and seeing what happens.

    Enjoy the weekend folks. Keep safe, and follow the rules to avoid the virus.

    PS – I am just getting back into photo editing on my new macbook air – I have a batch from October last year and a few new ones from this week.

    • Thanks Dave for the kind comment. I guess we’re all expecting things to be better regarding covid. I’ve been worjing on fallen trees, barks and roots since last autumn with the X2 and Ricoh GRD4 and will have to puy it into an article.
      Have a nice weekend and stay safe
      Jean

  5. Thanks for the great photos, Jean. I lived with a family in Imadol for a few months in 2008 and spent time in and around Patan/Durbar Square nearly every day. Your words in describing the people, their friendliness, and the sights are spot on. Top notch!

  6. So did you and the MRS., go with Indiana Jones and his crew! Man love that Ricoh, can’t wait for this COVID crap to end so everybody can go about their traveling. The all seeing eyes in the first photo, is that some sort ward off the evil spirits? Thank you!

    • I am with you, but history pandemics suggest a few more years yet – research Russian flu of 1889 – and then look at it subsequent waves – is now listed as a bovine coronavirus, and is part of the common cold.

      Hopefully this year will be better – if only the summer.

    • Thanks John for your kind comment. I didn’t meet Dr Jones or Harrison Ford. The GR is a wonderful travel camera. I tend to use my GRD4 and X2 more often these days. The GRD4 CCD sensor produces fantastic colours if you accept the camera limitations (no large prints). Just like you I’m patiently waiting till the covid is over. The eyes are the ones of the Buddha. you have the same on the stupas.
      Have a nice weekend and stay safe
      Jean

  7. Love the photos so full of life, Jean! Some of these photos show how deep-rooted and diverse religious beliefs and their practices are (really is the opiate of the masses). You should get hold of a copy of ‘Gods I’ve Seen’ by the Magnum photographer Abbas.

  8. Thanks Farhiz for your kind comment. Religious beliefs and practice have always fascinated me when going to Asia. As for Abbas, I got one of his books about Buddhism. I’ll look for the one you mentionde as I like his work.
    Have anice weekend and stay safe

  9. The colours are fabulous, particularly the reds. I can see why Steve mcCurry would have used Kodachrome to capture images of Nepal. In that part of the world and the Indian sub-continent everything happens on the streets and you have captured that very well, Jean. The other feature is the presence of religion and religious symbols everywhere which are not hidden away as they often are in Europe. A wonderful series, Jean.

    William

  10. Thanks William for your kind comment. I certainly associate Nepal with the red colour. Most houses and women’s clothes are red. I love wandering and getting lost in the streets and temples.
    Tthere’s always something happening. Going back to Kodachrome would probably cost me a fortune if I went back to analog photography. There are certainly as many photos opportunities here but we fail to notice out of habit.
    Enjoy the weekend and stay safe
    Jean

  11. Another of your marvellous travelogues! Quite apart from the intrinsic beauty of your images and the intrinsic interest of your account, my eyes are amazed by what you get out of the fixed focal length of 28mm. Do you do a lot of zooming with your feet? Do you crop in pp? You really tempt me to get a GR, but then my unsuccessful trials with an X2 and its 35mm say: no, stick with your zooms of up to 70mm and beyond. Have you some special secret you would be willing to share?!

  12. Thanks John for the kind comment. 28 and 50 mm are my favourite focal lengths. Most of the shots were taken at 28mm and I used the 47mm crop mode when I needed to get closer to my subject. I use the in-camera crop mode when need be but no crop in post. All the images in the article are OOC images with a bit of post for contrast, clarity and shadow recovery. Unlike you I’ve never been keen on zoom lenses. I usually pick one camera with a single focal length every time I go out and zoom with my feet. I enjoy going out with the GRD4 by Ricoh (28mm only) as it forces you to get the shot right as, with its tiny CCD sensor (9MP / 3:2 ratio), you know fairly well you can’t crop in post. When I use the GXR with it’s nifty fifty equivalent or the X2 it’s exactly the same. A used Q is on my wishlist but I can’t fund it at the moment. I’ve tried one, love the way it works, love the crop mode as when shooting raw you don’t lose anything and the LCD screen and viewfinder are gorgeous and give you two options to shoot. As for the GR bear in mind it has no viewfinder unless you add one and it’s not a Leica regarding imaging and that Leica look unlike no other. The Ricoh GRD3 and GRD4 are a much better options regarding imaging if you can live with a 28mm FOV only and a tiny CCD sensor. I don’t have any secret but I often browse through my large collection of art books, in particular the painting and photography ones, or watch the LFI gallery or blogs from various photographers. I also have most LFI magazines starting 2008. I try to shoot daily as well and try to discipline framing and light.
    Enjoy Sunday and stay safe
    Jean

  13. Thank you Jean for again taking us to a part of Nepal that is off the tourist trail. I’ve only ever hung out in Kathmandu and ventured into the mountains. Local village life makes for lovely subject images.
    You do mention the “reddish hue” of the images, in addition to the inherent reds of the subject matter that you discussed with William above. Some quick questions: Do the GRii and the GRD both do this? Do you use AWB or do you choose the white balance according to presets e.g. bright sunshine, cloudy etc.? What happens with the Ricoh GXR that I think you’ve mentioned previously? I’ve never used a Ricoh but I’m quite interested to know how you master them.

  14. Thanks Wayne for the kind comment. I wish I could go to these villages and plan a trek. I’ve seen wonderful images from these places.

    Both GR iii and GRD4 have this positive film mode. I don’t bother to use AWB presets outdoor as both cameras offer a Multi-P WB which works brilliantly. Indoors I often use one of the presets.

    I still have my GXR with its 50mm equivalent lens module. The lens is stellar and has got much character regarding the image colour signature and relief. I sold my 28mm module when I bought he GR but regret it. I will probably buy a used one again. I haven’t tried the M module but I’d like to. From what I’ve seen you get approxmately the same results as a Leica M8 and can use any M mount lens on it.

    If you can live with the 28mm FOV and a small CCD sensor I’d go for a used GRD4. It’s a wonderful little wizard of a camera. I’ve seen mint copies on eBay. They are quite expensive second hand and are some sort of cult cameras among the various Ricoh models.

    I’ve never ventured in the new GR iii model and never will as I read truly negative reviews from photographers I follow and don’t believe in the YouTube sponsored reviews you get on line.

    Enjoy what must be left of Sunday left afternoon in your part of the world and stay safe.

    Jean

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