In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog June 6th, 2009

East African Photography Tour, Part I/Epson 600 Workforce AIO Printer/Fax/Scanner/Copy/Photo

England Hotel Guide
Abode Manchester Hotel
Chancellors Hotel and Conference Centre
Galleon Hotel & Leisure Club
Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa


Infocus Readers;

This week I want to ask something of you. Please read the request by Gary Van Haneghan below, and if you see fit, please send in some full size images (or any size you have available) of the regions (SEA) children. Don’t worry about their quality, with your permission I’ll finish process them myself and forward them on to Gary to use for his worthwhile charity.

I’ve been in contact with Gary for several years and met him in person a few times. Gary is real and his motives are genuine.

I’ll be supporting Gary’s projects personally as much as I can. I really believe in what he’s doing.

Once we collect the pictures I’ll be making a photo collage to include all the images, and running a special with the collage and the progress Gary has made in this column. The special will feature his progress, the collage, and a selection of the most interesting children’s portraits submitted by our readers. I’ll also put the individual pictures together in an on-line flash gallery and post a link so everyone can enjoy them.

Thank you.

Steve

Hello Steve,

As you know, I run a small grass roots project called Thailand Orphanages/ Poor Children. My projects basically help orphan children in Thailand (Karen, Akha, Burmese, Cambodian, Lao and Thai) and a small amount in Cambodia with nutrition, eyeglasses, clothing, computers and education. My original intent was that I would fund the projects with my own money. As time has gone on, some close friends have begun contributing, which means that I can do more and help more children. Recently, friends have decided to run some fund raisers for the children.

I thought that if you had any readers or students that would be interested in donating a high quality photograph or photographs, that I could make prints and enlargements of their photos and sell them at these fund raisers. ALL of the funds received would go directly to help the children. I cover all of my own expenses and all administrative costs of running my program.

Photos could be of landscapes, monuments or children. Something that says ‘Thailand’ as I’d like to use the photos to give the spirit of exotic and beautiful Thailand. If they could provide them in full size it would make quality enlargements possible. If the photographer would like to include a blurb or website about themselves, I’d make copies and include them in the photo package. While my website is not in the ‘current’ condition I would like it to be, they can check it out at:

www.ThailandOrphanages.com

Any help that your readers can offer is very much appreciated. Thank you as always for you kind assistance.

Best Regards,

Gary

Feature Photograph

With those who know me I’ve made no secret that the Chiang Rai area is my favorite part of Thailand. The town itself is clean and fairly modern, the people nice, and the countryside and surrounding areas are absolutely beautiful. There is no where in Thailand I’d rather spend a few weeks away from Bangkok.

This image is significant purely for it’s composition if not its subject. The small irrigation ditch starts in the foreground and visually meanders to the top 2/3 of the frame where a small rice farmers resting shack stands alone against a vibrantly green rice fields. The background of mountains is just about perfect and the smoke rising from the cooking fire (to the right of the frame) is a nice addition. The sky with its heavy rain swollen clouds is about as good as it gets.

My friend and I were on our way to Wat Rong Khun. We left from Chiang Mai about 10am and figured we’d arrive mid-afternoon. Leaving the main highway I chose to take some of the smaller roads that wind through the farming community. My friend had fallen asleep and as I drove I couldn’t help but notice the directional light and beautiful sky. As I drove I looked for the additional elements that would make an interesting composition. When I found them I stopped, spent about five minutes capturing the scene, and then was back on the road again all without waking my friend.

The important thing to remember from this is that this landscape isn’t what the naked eye saw when driving down the road. The captured image, especially processed, is often very different from what your eyes see. The amount of contrast that separates the foreground, mid-ground, and background, the way the light strikes objects (remember, your eyes have a much wider capability to see dynamic ranges far beyond that of the camera, so the resulting image is but a subset of what your eyes see, a subset you control with the exposure settings), and of course the cropping as you remove that which makes focusing on the scene difficult. Experience allows the photographer to see all of these things the naked eye doesn’t see. The more experience, the more you see.

The shack itself lent itself well to some interesting shots. I especially liked this one with the two roofs framing the fields and mountains. Again the sky is perfect as the clouds take your eye and leads it to the far reaches of the frame.

Landscapes are all about what you see, and what you can envision from what you see. People who travel with me often ask “what are you looking at?” Most have no idea. I’m looking at the light, elements for a composition, points of interest. I’m looking for a photo op..


East African Photography Tour, Part I

KVW first made my acquaintance last year when he contacted me to see if I could take some photos of him and his fiancée for their wedding invitations. We made arrangements for the shoot and I had a lot of fun meeting and photographing a fun young couple. Periodically we kept in contact through email as KVW developed an interest in photography and I was happy to answer all his questions.

When I learned he was planning an extensive vacation to East Africa and was purchasing a new DSLR I recommended he find time for at least a one-day workshop. One day of instruction can make a heck of a difference. During our workshop it was easy to see he not only had an aptitude for photography, but a keen knowledge of the computer side of things that would serve him well. When he sent me this two part series I couldn’t have been more pleased! Not only was he able to maximize his use of his new DSLR and effect some really good captures, but it sounded like both him and his wife had a great time doing so. This is what life is all about. I keep preaching that photography should be fun, and so it should.

Great job KVW! Thank you for being so generous and sharing your fine work with the readers. If you have any questions about his trip to Africa or his photography you can contact KVW via email at: [email protected]

Thank you

Steve

Tanzania

This year’s Songkran holiday was something very special to me as I was able to fulfill one of my childhood dreams – a safari quest in East Africa, Tanzania. My wife and I had booked a 2 week trip there, starting our journey at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi. This was followed by a hectic, but satisfying 7 day safari across the “Northern Circuit” and ending our vacation with 5 days of R&R relaxing on Zanzibar’s tranquil beaches.

Prior to the trip, I had undergone a 1 day workshop with Steve to improve my non-existent photography skills, after acting on my urge to buy a DSLR camera. Below are some of the photos taken during the trip.

Moshi

Moshi is a small city at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro populated with less than 20000 inhabitants. The town itself is not much of a tourist attraction, but it is a starting point for many who aspire to conquer the mountain, as well as those, like us, who embark on a safari in the North of the country.

The surrounding area of Moshi however has diverse landscapes, making it a great country for hiking. Lush green rainforests are found on the slopes, whereas only 50 KM further down, the landscape is dry, barren, and very desert-like. Wherever you go, the mountain always offers a magnificent backdrop.

The area surrounding Moshi can be very dry just before the rainy season.

A waterfall in the rainforest.

The highest point in Africa provides a fantastic view when it’s not covered in clouds.

The local kids were shy, but soon went mad with excitement when you showed them their own image on the camera display.

Lake Manyara

The safari itself began on Day 4 starting with Lake Manyara, followed by the Serengeti and finally the Ngorongoro Crater. Each of the areas mentioned offers different scenery altogether.

Lake Manyara is a lush groundwater forest and home to a large diversity of animals. However, many of these animals are hard to spot within the dense foliage. Indeed, binoculars and a DSLR come in handy.

Baboons are abundant and many troops can be found next to or right in the middle of the roads.

Africa is haven for bird watchers, with many colorful birds like this grey headed kingfisher in plain view, seemingly undisturbed by human presence.

This black masked weaver decided to fly off just when I was taking his picture. Sometimes you just get lucky!

Serengeti

We spent 2 full days at the Serengeti driving around the endless plains. Words or even pictures cannot begin to describe the beauty of this place. Vast green grasslands as far as the eye can see, with just the odd tree or clump of rocks sticking out to create the landscape so unique to “the place where the land moves on forever”.

Wildlife can be found everywhere, although to the untrained eye it may seem like a desolate place. However, with a good guide this soon changes and we managed to see everything we could’ve ever hoped for, from lions basking in the sun, to vultures fighting over scraps, to a cheetah devouring a recently killed Thompson gazelle. It really is nature at its most cruel and most beautiful at the same time. Just Fantastic!

This guy was looking to steal the meal of a Tawny Eagle. Considering the vulture’s about twice the eagle’s size, the eagle didn’t even put up a fight.

While mother was sleeping at the foot of the rock keeping a watchful eye, these 3 cubs were playing in the tree above. Tumbling and rolling all over each other, we were reminded of our own cats at home. It’s hard to believe that these cute things will grow up to become voracious predators.

Cheetahs are notoriously difficult to find. Nevertheless our guide spotted this fellow and managed to pull the car up right next to him. To be so close to such a magnificent animal is truly a privilege.

The Buffalo is one of Africa’s “Big 5” together with the Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Leopard. They’re almost always accompanied by oxpeckers that eat parasites off their skin.

Leopards are undoubtedly the most elusive of all of Africa’s big cats. We couldn’t believe our luck So when we found this beautiful specimen in a tree not too far off the road! Utterly undisturbed by the cars, we watched it for a good half hour before reluctantly moving on. Beautiful!

When it gets about 40 degrees Celsius in the shade, what better than a long midday nap!

Just before our lunch break we jokingly told the guide we wanted to see a Cheetah feeding. He duly obliged… Raw nature at its best.

About 5 seconds after she finished eating, the vultures came in to finish the scraps. With a wingspan of close to 3 meters, they’re an awesome sight!

Epson 600 Workforce All-in-One Printer/Fax/Scanner

Sometimes when you put a lot of your time and money into a hobby or profession you need to remember to keep your family involved, make sure they can enjoy your expenditures and efforts as much as possible. Few pieces of hardware can be enjoyed more by the entire family than a network attached all in one (AIO) printer which is so easy to operate even your grandmother could stick the memory card from her Kodak Easyshare into the thing and print out an 8×10 glossy in no time at all. The Epson 600 Workforce All-in-One is such a machine. Printer, scanner, fax, memory card reader, OCR reader, copier, and more. This is one useful addition to your home computer equipment! And for less than $200!

I have an industrial grade color laser, three professional grade inkjets for making prints, two scanners, a broken fax machine, and several other large expensive bits of hardware that occupy a great deal of my office space. My fax machine was broken when my wife let the repair man use it to “test” if an outlet was powered on, forgetting this was a 110v fax machine and the transformer he unplugged it from was really necessary. My color laser weighs 30kg’s and while a very high quality, it’s too old to have a network interface. My inkjets run from small to huge and all require being directly attached to my computer, which necessitates rolling them out on a cart to my workstation. I can’t count how many times I’ve carried out a scanner, made a scan, saved the file, and then printed the file (after rolling out a printer) just to make a copy.

Everything has changed!

Last week I needed a copy of my passport. I walked into the office, pressed the passport to the copier surface, pressed a single button and was rewarded with a high quality color copy. Wonderful!

My wife had borrowed a 30 page document for her schoolwork and wanted a copy. She placed the entire stack of originals in the copy feeder, pressed “copy” and less than a minute later had her 30 pages copied. She decided to share a few pages with her classmates so she put five of the sheets back in the copy feeder, fed in the fax number, and pressed “start.” Done.

I was out at my workstation and needed to print out some work I’d just finished. I hit the “print” command in Word and went to take my shower and get ready to leave. Before leaving I stopped by the office and picked up my document. I continue to find uses for this jewel of a AIO and am really enjoying it.

Finding it was easy. Panthip, Office Depot, or most any computer shop in Bangkok will carry the Epson line. Hewlett Packard and others also make great AIO’s, but if you’re a photographer and already stock a great deal of Epson printing paper and are used to Epson printing quality, then this is the AIO for you.

Setup was simple. I took it from the box, peeled the plastic from the covered parts, installed the ink cartridges, and plugged it into the AC receptacle, the router, and the a telephone line. Lifting the covers I turned on the power button and it came to life. From there all I had to do was run the setup disk on the computers I wanted to use it with and I was done! Nothing could be more simple. It was instantly recognized on my network and every computer in my home (5) connected and installed the setup disk without a hitch.

The large colorful control panel folds down and locks in place. The 2.5” color LCD walks you through whatever you need to do with ease. My instruction manual is still sealed in the plastic it came in. Showing my family members how to use it took only a few minutes. That night photographs were being printed, copies of documents made, faxes sent, and the built in card reader was a real treat. Just insert your flash memory (it accepts all common types) into the slots, go back to wherever your computer is located, and the contents of the flash memory card are available to you.

This AIO is fast! 38ppm in draft mode, “laser quality” at 27ppm, the copier copies at the max print speed of 38ppm, “laser quality” color text at 19ppm. There is no apparent loss of speed using this over my home network, than if it was plugged into my computer directly via a USB cable.

And I must say the quality of photographs printed on original Epson photo paper surprised me. You’d have to look very closely to see any differences between the output from this $200 AIO and my $1500 professional inkjets. Of course you’re limited to a 8×11.5 inch print, but that’s large enough for most home use. The four color CMYK ink jet technology makes prints that are rated at 105+ years of longevity.

This is also a stand-alone photo printer. No computer needed! Drop in your flash memory card and watch thumbnails of your images appear on the LCD. Select the one you want, apply cropping/sharpening/color correction/etc (the AIO does this at your request), and print straight from the AIO without ever touching a computer. Brilliant!

Perhaps the best part of the Epson Workforce AIO is that it sits unseen and unheard in my office and I never need to connect a cable, AND every computer user in the house can access and use the AIO without connecting a cable. All they need to be is on your home network. Guests? No problem, if they’re not on your home network they can simply connect via the “WIFI” capability and even without running the setup disk they can print out standard documents, send faxes, and other functions.

I must admit, when I took this lightweight (8kg) AIO from it’s box and set it in place, I had serious doubts if something so lightweight could handle the workload. It does and several months later it hasn’t even burped. No jams in the paper handling, no clogs in the ink flow, no blips in the network. The Epson 600 Workforce AIO has performed absolutely flawlessly and is now depended on by everyone in our home.

If you haven’t added an AIO to your home yet, you probably will soon. At under $200 this Epson AIO is an absolute steal! I’m not sure how I got by so long without one.


Photography News of Interest

A Marsupial Lion Down Under! Do you feel lucky? Sometimes you just never know what that photograph will turn in to. Tim Willing, a naturalist and tour guide, photographed a cave painting in northwestern Australia. Later an anthropologist identified it as a marsupial lion. Who knew? You can read more about it here.

Wide screen or dual screens. Have you ever wondered if they really make a difference? I’ve been working with multiple monitors for years and swear by them. Check out NEC’s recent study. I think it’s very well done for office workers, but doesn’t cover image professionals well at all. Take this into account when you read this here.

Wouldn’t you love to find that long lost Michelangelo painting? A Texas museum recently acquired his 1st painting that was previously not known to be his. Read more about it here.

Canon has issued a service notice for the 1d Mark III and 1ds Mark III cameras. This is an ongoing issue with the auto focusing mechanism and mirror box. It appears this time they’re confident they’ve got the problem solved. About time, these models are going on two years old! Read more here.


Readers Submissions

Submitted by Charles:

Charles –

Nice shots! Please kept them coming.

Thank you

Steve


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

Hi!

I have a question: I have Canon gear, a 40D plus several lenses (No L though). I went to the Canon service center several month ago to inquire about the possibility to adjust the focus, only to be told that it would take them probably two weeks to do this. Reading your comments it looks like you had better service. I wonder if there is anyone specific to contact, or what to do to get my gear inspected, cleaned, checked and the focus adjusted?

Looking forward to hear from you!

Manfred

Pattaya

Manfred –

The Canon service center might be taking care of me on the same day for several reasons. I am a CPS (Canon Professional Services) member, I'm using pro gear which they might be more familiar with for fine adjustment, and they might not have been really busy the few times I've been there. In your case it sounds like they just gave you the standard time frame. You might try calling them and making an appointment to get the adjustments done while you wait. The only time I had to wait was the first time. I dropped off four hard cases with three pro bodies and 19 lenses and their delivery service dropped them off at my condo that same evening. They did an excellent job. Every lens was optimized for the body and aperture I requested. Great people!

They cleaned my bodies outside, inside including the mirror boxes and viewfinders, battery contacts, and flash card contacts. They also cleaned the sensor. Very well.

The lenses had the exteriors cleaned, switches cleaned, filters cleaned, and several disassembled and dust removed from inside. Then, they were matched to the body and optimized at the requested aperture.

Everything looked brand new and I couldn't be more pleased.

If you can't get the service you desire, ask to talk to a manager vs. the reception girls. In my case the service manager comes out every time to chat and ask me specific questions to best meet my needs.

I hope this helps.

Steve

Steve,

I have noticed that when I take photos in raw at night time or where there is some very dark areas in the photo they rarely look like what I took or what they looked like in Lightroom or Photoshop but on the LCD screen on the camera they looked great.

Here are two examples from photos I took last night.

No processing was done apart from re-sizing the image and converting it to jpg.

Charles

Charles –

I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. If you see an image in Lightroom or Photoshop.. then that is what you should be exporting to a jpeg file.

The first image (69a) appears that the sun is so bright that the camera compensated by underexposing as much as it could, the rest of the scene. What mode where you using? I’m guessing program or auto? If Aperture priority or manual you should be able to control it for exactly the exposure you want using the rear LCD screen.

There is always ‘some’ difference between your LCD and what you see in your editing software, this is why you should always use the histogram as your final reference. However, if there is a drastic difference between the two the something might be wrong with your camera.

The second image (80a) I can’t comment on because I see no signs of anything standing out and I don’t know what you saw with your eyes. I can guess that you were using an automatic mode and it cued in on the brightest lights in the same way as the first image.

Can you give me some more information?

Steve

Steve

Both images were taken in full manual mode, both of the images the histogram is pushed to the left and there is no data after the center of the graph.

69a was taken at 6.53pm. Aperture was 1.6 seconds and f5.6, the bright light was a spot light over the lake.

The second was taken at 7pm, it was of the Mo Chit BTS station from the park. Aperture was 1.3 seconds and f5.6,

I used to take many photos like these in JPG form without problems.

I am going to go back there on Sunday night and try again and take 2 photos one in raw and the other in jpg fine mode and send you the 2 files so you can see what I mean.

Charles

Charles –

If this is the case them you simply metered incorrectly. As you know the histogram should be almost touching the right side. If it’s to the left then you should have seen this when making the capture and corrected.

This has absolutely nothing to do with jpeg vs. raw. Raw files contain jpeg thumbnails (this is what shows up on your LCD and anywhere thumbnails are shown in Windows Explorer and other imaging programs) and while sharpness, contrast, and even color can change according to your in-camera jpeg settings.. exposure will not. These are both exposure issues.

When you go back forget about taking exposures in RAW/Jpeg.. and instead observe your histogram vs. your LCD. Expose to the right (just up to but not touching) and once there THEN observe the image on LCD. You can adjust to your taste from there.

Without seeing the scene with my own eyes I can’t tell you if your settings were correct. The only thing I can tell you that’s rock solid is if your histogram is to the left, then you’re severely underexposed.

I hope this helps

Steve

Steve

Thank you for your advice, I was able to go back out there last night.
here are 2 files.

I know one the Histogram doesn't go all the way to the right but if it did, for me there was to much light.

But I am very happy with the results.

Charles

Charles –

These are much better! I’m glad you’ve got the hang of using the histogram. You’re absolutely right, at night if you expose to the right as you would in a daytime shot then the image will be too exposed for a nighttime shot. Still, it’s a great starting place and from there using your LCD you can get pretty close to what you want. Don’t forget to bracket 3-5 exposures once the LCD is showing what you’re pleased with. Often, the LCD representation won’t be what you see back on your computer, so bracketing is useful for making sure you got the exposure you wanted.

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

Another busy week! A single workshop, gallery building, and trying things out on the mockup of my soon to be new website. I’ll keep you posted.

Infocus Blog

HOT HOT HOT ! ! !

The heat has been cranked up in Thailand for almost two months now. Super bright days that bleach every bit of color from a landscape, heat that ensures a steady trickle of sweat every moment you’re outdoors, and skies that have no soul or color. What is a photographer to do during the hot months?

This is a time to challenge yourself. Most of the time, most all of the day, will result in terrible photographs that look like your grandmother captured them on her Kodak Easyshare. Still, there are photo opportunities out there just waiting for the creative mind to capture.

Night shots would be one. Charles has been out there during these hot times working on his night photography techniques and from the looks of his latest pictures he’s doing quite well! Once the sun goes down everything pretty much looks the same as any other month with few exceptions.

Exceptions would be the “after colors.” Never heard of after colors? That’s because they’re a secret.

From the time the sun sets, to as much as an hour later, when the sky appears dark/black to your eyes.. there might still be very colorful and vibrant colors in the sky not visible to the naked eye. However, your digital camera can see them if you set the exposure to capture them.

You can’t just expect to set a longer exposure and the colors will be there every time. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, there is what I call the “magic minutes” where for just a few minutes these colors (wild greens/yellows/reds and blues) will be in the sky waiting for the photographer patient enough to keep testing the sky for color in the hour after the sun sets. If you have a DSLR that you can set to expose for long periods of time, including up to an hour or more, you can often capture some obscenely wild colors in the middle of the night! Experiment and see what you can come up with.

Another exception would be the violent thunderstorms so common to Thailand this time of year. Shots of lightning are great. Try your hand at capturing lightning. Set your aperture for just about any value (of course the sweet spot of your lens where it’s the sharpest is better) and then vary your shutter speed to effect great captures of lightning. The longer the exposure, the longer the bolts. Sometimes a 2-3 second exposure can capture multiple strikes. Experiment.

Thunderstorms mean clouds. Beautiful rain swollen dark clouds, often backlit by the sun. These are the times you’ll capture the most beautiful landscapes. But you need to be there at the right time. Often, when thunderstorms are predicted in an area I’ll just go out to the countryside and drive around looking for the right compositional elements. Once there I’ll hang around when I see the clouds moving in and position myself so the sun is behind or to the side of me, and the dark clouded skies to the front. It’s a great way to capture dramatic landscapes.

Even though it’s hot and the photo opportunities seem slim, it’s still all about the amount of imagination and effort you put into your photography. Next time you know thunderstorms are predicted, take a drive in the countryside and see what you can come up with. Maybe you’ll make a dramatic capture of a lifetime!

Until next week..