The Black and White Challenge

December 11, 2014

What little time I’ve been spending on social media these days has been mostly spent on Instagram. In these last few weeks I’ve been snapping more black and white shots. This time of year – or perhaps these past two weeks of predominantly grey days – seems to say, “Take me in black and white.”

Last week I was nominated by a very talented photographer who goes by the name of uagliu on Instagram to post five black and white photos in five days: one per day (+ 1 bonus pic). I took her up on that challenge. In that same week two of my black and white photographs were featured on two different sites – love_bnw and awesomebnw – as one of the five best photographs of the day. In this post I offer you those eight pictures. One of them you may have seen on my previous post, Bridges Over the Winooski, if you follow me here on Heart Sign or WordPress regularly.

These eight pictures were taken across a span of two years in four different countries. I posted them chronologically on Instagram and will do the same here.

As always, I hope you enjoy what I present here. If you do, please spread the word to your friends to make a visit too. If you haven’t already, you can follow this blog by clicking the Facebook Like at the right, entering your email for automatic notifications, or if you’re a WordPress user, by clicking the Follow link. Also, if you’re an Instagram user, find me at

Thanks for visiting!

Lens through the Bridge

Find this photograph also in my last post, Bridges Over the Winooki


Under the Pomegranate Trees

This second shot was taken in 2012 when I lived in southern Afghanistan working (as a civilian) with melon and pomegranate farmers. This picture was taken under a grove of pomegranate trees surrounded by arid, drought-stricken fields. I was escorted in U.S. Army armored personnel carriers to a desolate, rural, arid expanse of fields that were formerly irrigated from a seasonal river fed by snowfall from distant mountains. Over 15 years of drought had devastated agriculture in this area, forcing many farmers to leave to seek jobs in the growing, dusty metropolitan sprawl along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border at the Wesh-Chaman border crossing. We just finished a long meeting with several village elders and curious young men talking of their desperation to get water to their fields while we sipped tea. The irony of the hot water washing down my throat was not missed as I listened to their pleas for assistance. They expected no help from their own government.


Honor Riders

The Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders

This third shot was taken in 2013 after I returned from living and working in Afghanistan. I needed to clear my head from that experience so I hopped on my motorbike and rode a 12,500 mile clockwise circle around the United States – 26 states over a three month period (see the blog archive from this trip by clicking on the hyperlinked text), crashing on friends’ sofas and pitching my single tent alongside the road and in the back of cemeteries (the quietest place to sleep where no living soul will disturb you).

I was in Arizona riding out of the Grand Canyon and on my way north to Zion National Park in Utah. I was eating breakfast when I saw about 60 Native Americans come swooping into the parking lot. I went out to ask where they were going. These are the Honor Riders ( Each year they ride in a clockwise circle for three days around their reservation to honor the men and women who have served our country, as well as their families. I asked if I could join them. They welcomed me with open arms.

I reversed my course and rode west with them for the last two days of their annual ceremonial ride. As we passed through one small town after another, community groups, families, tribal officials and schools met us, fed us, prepared ceremonies and speeches and performed traditional Navajo and Hopi songs and dances. It was one of the greatest honors of my life. Here we are just departing from a school where lines of children came out to greet us. Some children exclaimed when seeing my bike, “Ooh! I like your purple bike!”  I add here one more picture of a few of those children that was not a part of my five black & white photo feature.

Navajo Children

Navajo Children greeting us during our Honor Ride


Hut on the Delta

I spent the first half of 2014 leading a humanitarian relief operation in Rakhine State, western Myanmar (formerly Burma), where the ethnic Rohingya are being persecuted by the still mostly military government and being subjected to apartheid-like conditions. Our efforts provided water, sanitation and health services, and child and gender-based violence protection to over 3,500 displaced Rohingya in Myebon Township. From our main office in Sittwe, the state capitol of Rakhine, we had to travel two hours through a maze of delta rivers to reach Myebon. Myebon had travel prohibitions placed on it from the government, so we had to apply for repeated one-week permits to travel and work there. We were not permitted to live there. Observing river life along these waterways always fascinated me on our early morning trips.

This picture: a fisherman’s hut along the swollen waters and muddy banks of a remote tributary.


The Eye

From the muddy delta of western Myanmar to the modern, futuristic ferris wheel in London – The Eye!  This, my fifth photograph of the Black & White Photo Challenge.

These next two photographs were featured as Photos of the Day on love_bnw and awesomebnw galleries on Instagram

Railroad Bridge

I was attending a day-long meeting in Montpelier, Vermont, on a cold, grey, early December day. I had some time before I had to return to Barre, so I pulled my iPhone out of my back pocket and walked around Montpelier photographing its many bridges over the Winooski River and its north branch. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the freedom my iPhone has given me to be a mobile photographer – and take quality pictures, at that! – when I don’t have my Nikon SLR handy.  Who doesn’t have a mobile phone tucked in their pocket these days?  The iPhone 6, with certain photographic limitations, takes splendid pictures. And it’s always available. My Nikon isn’t something I tuck in my back pocket…

This photograph featured on love_bnw on Instagram.



Another iPhone shot. I was driving from Barre, Vermont, to Dummerston late last week. We received a foot of snow the night before and the snow was still falling lightly, giving the trees and surrounding landscape a look like they had been spread with vanilla frosting. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road as I approached this curve. Pulled my iPhone out and snapped this picture (among others not featured here).

This photograph featured on awesomebnw on Instagram

Coming Soon: A morning trip down the western Myanmar Delta


All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

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