In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog December 13th, 2008

Airliner Window Photography, Angkor Vat



Feature Photograph

This weeks feature photograph was captured at Angkor Vat in Siem Reap Cambodia. I’ve been holding back on Angkor Vat images because I couldn’t decide how to present them, but this week I decided to share some of the more interesting ones in the Feature Photograph and Outing sections. I hope you enjoy them.

This image is significant because it was about having a vision and exercising the patience to effect the capture. Most of us familiar with Angkor Vat have seen this particular scene before. But have we ever seen it presented in such a way? Perhaps, but I was trying for something very different. I studied the time of sunset and the angle the sun would take to this scene. Once satisfied I arrived 90 minutes early, set up, and waited for the sun to shine in from a very low angle and light up the inside of the root structure while casting a bright light on the flat surfaces of the stones. Because of the angle of the light this created a significant amount of contrast to the other parts of the scene. Careful processing brought out the detail and patina of the stones adding to the image. Nothing is perfect, and you can see the bright part of the sky almost blowing out amidst the branches.

What could have made the capture more interesting? How about a wider angle revealing more of the stones? You be the judge which one is the better image.

Weekly Photo Outing

This week we visit Angkor Vat in Siem Reap Cambodia. This is a very popular tourist destination and has been featured in countless documentaries, books, and even nominated as one of the wonders of the world. A huge sprawling religious complex, arguably the largest in the world, built hundreds of years ago. The main complex in Siem Reap is the best known, but in future Outings I’ll take you 20-50km’s outside of Siem Reap to ancient structures in the jungle rarely visited by anyone except Indiana Jones and Laura Croft types.

Black and white seems the most natural.

Root structures are everywhere, giant roots growing over stone structures, coming out of the top of walls, and running underfoot.

Sometimes the roots reveal hidden art.

The local children are often curious.

Old wooden bridges and more modern forms of transportation.

Every morning you’ll want to rise before 0400 and head to one of the major lakes inside the park and wait with hundreds of other tourists as the sun rises illuminating the day with brilliant colors. Sunsets such as the one below are pretty special also.

Inside the temples you’ll need to set up on a tripod and carefully estimate the available light and direction.

Before the sun rises, while its still dark, long exposures reveal hidden colors.

After sunset, when the sky is dark to the naked eye, hidden colors can be revealed by long exposures.

Ancient trees and footpaths can be found with little trouble.

After my first 4-5 visits to Angkor Vat I wanted to try some different types of captures that made the more common sights a bit more interesting. I brought along some of my infrared filters, set up on a tripod for longer exposures, and using a wide angle lens tried for something different.

The view of the main structure in infrared was very different indeed!

Sound wide angle techniques such as having a foreground as well as an interesting background work well for infrared images as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the images from Angkor Vat. This is truly a special and unique experience. If you’re ever heading that way and need a reliable and knowledgeable guide who speaks great English send me a email and I’ll set you up with a great guide who I’ve developed a great business relationship with.

Airliner Window Photography

Last week Stick’s contributions in the Readers Submission sections were really interesting and I had a few emails asking if it was possible to get decent captures from your window seat on a common airliner.

In truth it’s not that easy and it requires some setup and decent post processing skills. Lets look at a few images and talk about them.

This was shot coming into Hawaii at about daybreak. It was dark so I set the camera up at ISO 1600, used my pillow to brace my camera in the window frame, and as we came in to land captured this image of Pearl Harbor. Because you’re shooting through inches of thick, curved and scratched/abused plastic window.. contrast is really poor. To compensate for the lack of contrast be sure to shoot at about a 45 degree angle to the window and pump up your contrast during post processing.

With this image you can see the jet engine to the left. Another long exposure minutes before landing and careful post processing.

Even when shooting through a very thick window from a airliner paying attention to the direction of light is important. I had my nose glued to the window for a good hour watching the rising sun bounce off the clouds and waiting for an interesting shot. When this scene appeared I didn’t waste any time in making the capture and just seconds later the reflected light and colors disappeared and everything went grey once again. This is one of my favorite images from this genre and the full size print is stunning.

Photography News of Interest

For those of you thinking of buying a loved one a compact digital camera, check out a group test of such cameras over on Digital Photography Review. You can see the test here.

Havana’s Erotic Art Exhibition is now showing at the Cuban National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana. If you’re not able to make it to Havana (like the rest of us) you can read about the exhibit here.

If photography in India interests you, or maybe you’re planning a trip to the area, check out Outside Online and Part II of their India photography tips. Here.

FotoBlur magazine is set to launch its inaugural edition and is looking for interesting submissions. If you’ve ever wanted to be part of a new publication check out this link and see if you have something interesting to submit for review. Link

Megaipixel.net reviews the Nikon D60, a really nice consumer DSLR. Check out their review here.

Readers' Submissions

There were no readers submissions this week. If you’d like to share your travel photos I’ll try and post them in the first available slot. Email me your travel photos and any size narrative you can come up with and share them.

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they d like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers' Questions

BkkSteve;

In the past with film cameras it was almost mandatory to use colored filters to get decent color. I still have many filters, are they useful to digital photography?

Great weekly!

Terry:

Terry –

What many people don’t realize is that in the past film was purchased with a specific color temperature such as “Daylight.” Any variation of actual color temperature from ideal daylight resulted in colors which were less than perfect, in many cases very drab and flat. To match the color temperature of the scene to the film being used we’d use one or more color filters, always in shade so the primary colors of red, blue, and green. Sometimes one filter would be enough, sometimes you’d combine several. It was possible to match the color temperature this way with lots of experience but the practice had one very real effect. This effect was that filters reduce the amount of light reaching the film plane, often by a stop or more. This made low light and even moderate light scenes that much more difficult.

Fortunately this just is no longer necessary with digital photography. Setting the proper/correct color temperature is the function of a digital cameras “white balance” and is very easy to do. Usually it’s enough to let the automatic white balance sensor read the scene and adjust automatically. Sometimes in tough conditions such as dusk or heavy shade you might want to select some of the preset white balance modes. Professionals will often carry a grey card into the field and take a custom white balance setting using this card. This is the best way to ensure you get the most accurate colors and only takes 30 seconds to accomplish. A function worth learning!

Btw – I’ve also got a drawer full of filters from my film days and I’m very glad I no longer need to pack them in my camera bag and lug them around!

Thanks for the great question!

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review

The damage to tourism appears to be long lasting. Very few inquiries from those planning to visit the Kingdom and learn some photography skills while here.

Not one to sit idle for long this week I found myself on the Chulalongkorn campus looking for interesting stock image opportunities and I took a long drive to Lopburi to check out the sunflowers in search of interesting images.

Infocus Blog

Sometimes it’s not that easy.

Today I woke up early, carefully packed my cameras and lenses, and headed for Lopburi where I was told I’d find some great photographic opportunities with their popular sunflowers in bloom against some very interesting rock structure/hills.

What most people don’t realize when seeing an interesting image is the work it takes into being at the right place at the right time. It’s very common, even most common, to make a significant effort to photograph a scene only to have the weather or other variables be uncooperative.

I once made over 20 trips to a mountain peak during the dead of winter hoping for a rare shot of the sun peeking through the clouds and lighting the lake below in an attractive way. Each trip found me sitting in the bitter cold and snow for up to ten hours at a time. On the last trip I was almost ready to pack it in when I was rewarded for my efforts with about ten seconds of the most perfect sun before it retreated behind dark clouds. I got my shot, but 20 trips was a lot of effort for a single image. I think the effort was worth it and I’ve since sold many copies of this image.

Today I drove for three hours to get to Lopburi only to find they’d already harvested the sunflowers! And to top if off the sky was really hazy and the sun extreme.

When something like this happens you have the choice of getting upset about it, or just making the best of things. Today I decided a nice lunch and massage would make the trip worth the effort even if I didn’t get the pictures I wanted. Maybe next time.