Photo Story From Daring Heights: Honey Hunters of Nepal

Looking for 32 ounces of certified organic, raw honey from YS Organic Bee Farms, take a drive to the closest Walmart and spend about $12. How about 20 kilograms of raw honey comb from the Himalayan cliffs of central Nepal? Better start climbing.

Andrew Newey, photographer for WIRED magazine, captured the Gurung honey hunters harvesting process from start to finish. This full-day trek, 3-hours away from their village, entails climbing 200 to 300 feet up on to a cliff on a handwoven rope ladder barefoot, while dressed in pseudo-protective garb and wielding two 8-yard long “tangos,” or bamboo rods.

But what made this photo story so captivating was Newey’s attention to detail, his variety in shots and compositions and his devotion to finding the full story.

Attention To Detail

To make a good photo story, the cameraman must be first not just a good photographer but a good photojournalist. A good photographer could capture the image above but what would the photo’s purpose be afterward? Newey explains each photo with a brief and concise caption highlighting the photo’s finesse. Under the image above is the caption featured in WIRED magazine online — with a minor adjustment to the way the photo was attributed — used to describe the Gurung honey hunter’s battle with gravity (not to mention the struggle with the swarm of Apis laboriosa, the worlds largest bee, of course).

"As the honey hunter descends the rope ladder, the blood, blisters and bee stings that are synonymous with this treacherous tradition become visible."  Photo by Andrew Newey/ WIRED
“As the honey hunter descends the rope ladder, the blood, blisters and bee stings that are synonymous with this treacherous tradition become visible.” Photo by Andrew Newey/ WIRED

Both captions featured above describe details of the photo that a viewer might miss after first glance. In each photo, Newey points out — first the basket masked by the smoke used to subdue the cyclone of bees and second the worn and abused feet of the huntsman — key components that the camera captured  but that a careless viewer might overlook. Good captions means good reporting, plain and simple.

Variety Of Shots and Composition

Photo by Andrew Newey/ WIRED
Photo by Andrew Newey/WIRED

Being an excellent photographer is also key to a good photo story — Newey certainly passed that mark. Rule of Thirds, direction of lighting, action shot: all of which are featured above in this very intimate photo of a the huntsman, disrobed from his bee-repellent suit, enjoying the fruits-of-his-labor, a honey comb. Newey took many shots with this similar composition — the subject in the edge of the third hypothetical quadrant, or Rule of Third, of the photo — and of a similar subject — the honey huntsmen of Nepal. But this technique framed the subject in every photo with the action that they were doing — a key factor to a well-told photo story.

Other photos, such as the one below, were taken to add context to the story, such as where the village is located and the environment in which they have to survive.

Photo by Andrew Newey/WIRED
Photo by Andrew Newey/WIRED

The Full Story

Newey got the full scoop: the day and the life of a honey hunter from Nepal, capturing every moment from the being suspended from the cliff’s edge to the warm bellies of a villages job well done.

However, the story Newey contributed to under the featured photo story told an additional story about the threats to their honey-harvesting village. The additional full-length article described the troubles of climate change, tourism, economic dependency and a young, tech-savvy generation has on the village and the symbiotic bee population.

Where is that part of the photo story?

Captions featured for the first two photos are from WIRED magazine online and were not original creations. Captions that followed are original and attributions to Andrew Newey/WIRED. All photos by Andrew Newey.

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