In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog November 28th, 2009

Revisited, Safe Haven Orphanage / Professional Lighting Example

Portugal Hotel Guide
Pousada San Bento Hotel Canicada
Pousada Santa Cristina Hotel
Tryp Dona Maria Hotel
Pousada Flor da Rosa Hotel

Thank you for your generous contributions. We're slowly collecting enough images to make the mosaics. I realize I'm posting the same paragraph each week, but I assure you we're on top of this project and doing our best to collect enough of the proper type of images to make the best possible set of mosaics. This is proving difficult so please help if you can.

We are still accepting (and pleading for) images of children from SEA. No matter how terrible you think they are, please send them in anyway. These images will be used to complete a set of 3 high quality mosaics which will be sold to benefit the Karen and Burmese Orphans living in the orphanages and refugee camps. The more images the better, I can use all you have. Please take the time to go through your images for anything you think might help. If you missed the "No Place to Call Home" special, you can click on the link and read more about this. Thank you! [email protected]

Feature Photograph

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 35mm F8 ISO 800

Several months ago when I was photographing the Mae La refugee camp from the roadside I made a capture of a boy looking out from inside the wire. That image has stuck with me, and many others who saw it said it was a "1000 word picture." It was that picture which inspired me to do the mosaic's. We're still collecting images for the mosaic's and I'm still as excited as ever about completing them. I told you I was going to do a set of three, and that hasn't changed. I had my first image, but the other two I hadn't yet decided on.

Then two weeks ago I made this similar but different capture. Another young boy looking out from inside the wire. Now I know what I want the theme to be. I want the theme for all three images in the set, to be of children looking out from the wire, trapped in their giant cage with no where to go. This image is significant because it gave me the inspiration. I might not use this particular one, but now I know I'll be out there looking for three perfect "looking out from the wire" images. This might be more difficult than it sounds, so far in four trips and over 40-50 hours along Mae La's wire, I've only managed to make two such captures. I'll keep trying.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 800

I don't think I'll ever get over the contrast between the beauty of the land, and the ugliness of the man. This landscape was captured along the Thai/Burma border not far from the Mae La camp. A perfect blue sky day. Notice the direction of light as it comes over your left shoulder, 45 degrees across the frame? And how it lights up portions of the fields and trees while keeping others in the dark? Contrast.

Revisited, Safe Haven Orphanage

A few months ago I visited the Safe Haven Orphanage located near the Mae La refugee camp along the Thai/Burma border. I introduced you to Gary Van Haneghan who is a primary fund raiser and organizer for this orphanage andtheir website where people can leave small donations via PayPal.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 200

Their plight hasn't changed, and what was once described as dire worsens as the cooler weather approaches along with the rains and resulting mudslides and other dangers. Two weeks ago I was visiting again and I arrived unannounced. Immediately I could tell several projects had been started but not yet completed.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 100

It amazed me that the buildings/structures I saw on my last visit just months previously, were now in much worse stages of decay and needed rebuilding immediately. I learned while there that most of the structures made from local materials need to be rebuilt every two years. Most of these structures are 3-5 years old.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 40mm ISO 100

I'm still impressed how this "rock ground", land filled with huge rocks and boulders, so many of them that it's impossible to level the ground or move the rocks, has been made usable. Every bare patch of land is used to its fullest.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 100

The afternoon was really warm and this young Karen mother tried desperately to comfort her sick baby. He was hot with fever, snot dripping down his nose, and the mother bathed him in cool towels and did her best to care for him. There is no nurse or medical professional on-site. If someone gets really sick they need to be taken by car to a clinic 45-60 kilometers distant. Often the Thai military must be asked to help with transportation.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 43mm ISO 100

Shade is precious, and anyone not engaged in work tries to get through the hottest part of the day in a shaded area swatting biting flies away.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 100

This young teen has it right! She has a nice hammock with a bit of shade and she was all smiles as we approached.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 51mm ISO 100

The sleeping structures have seen better days. Floors are rotting through to the dirt below, yet the many children who sleep in these never complain. Ragged mats and blankets touch each other as there isn't much room for privacy or even to fully stretch your legs while sleeping.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 70mm ISO 100

Some of the smaller rocks almost look decorative. Natural runoffs for water run through the camp and simple bridges are built over them.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 35mm ISO 100

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 100

The simple tents and lean-to's many call home might be hard for you to pick out from the background. The big rocks and boulders are ever present, forcing you to alter your path, watch your step, and exercise caution at all times. The children move around this obstacle course with the natural agility of a mountain goat, while visiting volunteer workers have a much worse time of things. During my last visit I learned a lady volunteer had broken her foot and ankle.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 51mm ISO 100

This outdoor toilet serves the orphanage well, though I'd imagine navigating the rocks and other hazards during the night hours would be quite challenging.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 100

These flat areas are used to grow vegetables. It's hard to picture the entire land with huge rocks and boulders, and then small flat spaces where putting up a structure or growing something is possible.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 70mm ISO 100

This outdoor wash area serves the entire orphanage. Clothes are washed here and the process is entirely manual. The clothes are washed, rinsed, and then hung to dry. They never do look "clean" as we know clean, but the worst of smells and bacteria are kept at bay.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 32mm ISO 100

I have a string of about 8 images captured at 4fps taken of this little girl as she spies us and then runs in excitement to greet us. She wasn't shy at all. Last time I was here she was wary of me and gave me a challenging look. This visit she wanted to be my best friend.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 40mm ISO 100

These structures appear to be under construction at first glance. A closer look reveals instead they are falling apart. The roofs are long gone and plastic tarps try to do the job, and the wood used for the frame is rotten and infested with insects. Yet, these are still considered usable structures. Anything is better than sleeping on the ground.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 70mm ISO 100

A few hours later on the way out, I notice the sick baby now sleeping in a scratchy wool blanket fashioned into a hammock. I stopped to wipe away the snot and sweat from his face before taking the image. He's tired and sleeps through the entire experience. This is normal here, but I can't imagine my own sons at this age, sick and hungry, left out in the heat and sun, bugs landing on him, as the mother lays exhausted in the dirt a few feet away. She's done her best and she'll do her best tomorrow. I wish she had more to do her best with. She watches me clean the boy and smiles as I take his picture. I wanted her picture as well, but even outside in this great expanse.. it seems to be her only private place. The picture can wait for another visit.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 70mm ISO 800

Every visitor is appreciated, and the kids will gather in the one solid structure they have so you can introduce yourself, perhaps bring treats or fruit to share, tell stories, sing songs, and show off anything they feel like sharing.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 24mm ISO 100

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 70mm ISO 100

Some of the improvements are remarkably simple, yet very effective. These hand wash stations help keep the kids healthy. They step on a pedal, which pulls a string, which tips the water jug, which streams water down to their hands. A bottle of liquid soap hangs nearby. When the kids come in to eat or for classes, they're reminded to wash their hands. This is the stuff habits are built on!

I didn't expect this trip to impact me as much as my first trips, but it did. The weather with the beautiful blue skies and warmer temperatures had some to do with this. Literally seeing things in a different light? Or perhaps there is just enough to see for many trips.

Each time I come I try to bring someone with me who hasn't yet been here. I tell them I can't say if they'll enjoy the trip or not, but what I can do is guarantee them a "life experience" and I really believe this. If you make the effort of visiting this area and seeing how these kids live, visiting the refugee camps, or just experiencing the people.. it will change how you see certain things.

A life experience indeed…

A Professional Lighting Example

I would like to introduce Craig Lamson. Craig has been a professional product photographer for over 3 decades. Craig has done it all and I encourage you to check out his website for the best product photography you’ll ever have the privilege of viewing. Often times I can spend a great amount of time viewing just one of his images and learning while observing how he uses light. Craig is a master of light, and I’m afraid that is an understatement. If you've ever wondered who I go to when I have a question you now have your answer.

Take FOUR…make ONE

The Problem

Shoot a RV interior photograph on location, in the clients factory, with a minimum of lighting gear.

The Solution

Shoot the interior in four segments and assemble the images in Photoshop to create the final image.

Creating a quality illustration of a RV interior is an exacting and sometimes frustrating process. After finding the required camera angle, selecting the lens, and styling the interior, the biggest problem is creating a lighting scheme creates a mood and showcases the features that make the RV special. When working in the studio where power and equipment are readily available it is not uncommon to use 10 to 20 different studio lights to create the desired effect. This can be a time consuming process, often taking many hours of time to position each light correctly.

Creating a quality lighting scheme on location is a completely different animal. First you need to transport all of your gear to the location. Second, amply power is often a problem. In the studio , using tungsten lighting I can often use up 200 amps of power on 10 or more discreet circuits. It is very rare to find this much power available for use in a factory setting.

With these limitations in mind I began my search for a lighting scheme that would showcase the RV interior while using a minimum of lighting fixtures and power. My solution was the 4 to 1.

The setup is quite simple. I am using large diffusion panels to create a soft lighting effect and have placed a single 650w tungsten light behind each panel. The panels (or single panel) is placed as far forward in the set as possible so that a decent "shadow side" is created to give depth to the cabinet doors etcetera. In addition I am placing a 420w spot near the camera and bounced off the ceiling for additional fill. In the case of the example above I have also placed two small 200w spots in the distant bedroom bounced off the ceiling.

With the lighting defined the shooting is simple, shoot one side, move the lights, shoot the other side, move the lights, shoot for the ceiling (one light bounced off a panel on the floor) and shoot the floor (one light bounced off the ceiling)

The Pitfall

This process works best if you can shoot tethered to a computer outside the RV so you don't have to touch the camera. If the camera moves between images it can really mess up the assembly process in Photoshop. In the same vein, you must be very careful not to touch or move the camera while working inside the RV moving lights. It's not impossible to assemble a series of images where the camera has moved but it's a royal pain and should be avoided at all costs if possible.

The Assembly

This is pretty easy. You simply process your raw files, open them in Photoshop and layer them. Then you simply use a soft edged erasure brush and erase the portions of each layer to create the final image. If your camera did not move, each image will match pixel for pixel.

After the basic assembly and before you remove barrel distortion, CA and adjust your verticals you might need to go into your composite and lighten or darken selected areas by processing variants of your different raw files and layering them into your composite to achieve your desired effect.

This method is a real time saver on location because the lighting setup is quick and simple. However, in the end it's really a wash, time wise, compared to detailed studio lighting due to the additional time spent in Post Production.

Craig Lamson is a professional advertising photographer with over three decades of experience. His work can be viewed at: www.craiglamson.com

Photography News of Interest

The more you can include your family with your hobby's, often the more satisfying they can be. I've always encouraged and enabled my youngest son to enjoy photography, and in fact he was helping me shoot weddings and events from the time he was 10 years old. That's why when I saw this scholarship contest I thought it would be a worthwhile use of his time. Sigma Corporation will award a $5000 cash gift and $1000 in products to a talented high school senior. Read more about Sigma's Scholarship Contest here.

If you have one of the latest cameras which isn't yet supported in Lightroom or CS4 Photoshop, perhaps it's now supported in Adobe's latest 'release candidates'. Release Candidates are software products well out of the beta stage and right before actual release. They're ready for distribution to the general public, but it might be wise to release a test run and see how they go. Clickhere to download Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom 2.6 release candidate, and here to download Adobe's Camera Raw 5.6.

I've always found the small point and shoots with weatherproof construction of interest. Whether we're at the beach, camping outdoors, kayaking, or just about any sport where water, dust, or impact might be an issue, these small cameras are built to take it. Casio announces their rugged EX-G1. See ithere.

Phase One's Capture Pro 5 has just released version 5.0.1 which supports the newest cameras like the Canon 7d, Panasonic GF1, Leica X1, Leica M9, and more. This is professionals product for those who need to eek the very best image quality from their raw files. I've been using Capture Pro for over five years now and while I currently use Lightroom for my general work, when I need the very best quality Capture One Pro is what I use. Get your updatehere.

Phase One originally produced Capture One Pro to compliment their digital sensor backs for MF camera bodies. Now they've progressed to making entire cameras as well as the digital backs and excellent software. Check out this review of their newest Phase One 645DFhere.

Readers Submissions

BKKSteve –

Good afternoon from cool and breezy Bangkok. Super weather at the moment.

A few more pictures you might enjoy and feel free to use as needed.

Rick

Rick –

Thanks! These are nice. I can't wait to see samples from your new Canon S90!

Steve

Thank you to everyone who sent in images to share after seeing we ran dry last week. I'll keep them in the queue and post them in the order received. We can always use more, so don't hesitate to send more. And please caption or add any narration you think would be of interest to the readers.

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;

I like to send sets of full size images to friends and family. Currently I've been making CD's and mailing them, but this is expensive and takes a long time. Is there a better way? I know they're too big to attach to emails.

Ronn

Ronn –

Yes, there are several ways. One way would be to post your images on a photography website such as www.smugmug.com and allow access to those you wish to have the images.

I understand you might not want to pay fees, nor have the trouble of updating a site. If this is the case consider using a large file transfer service such as www.yousendit.com. You can send, I believe, files up to 2gigs in size using a free account. There are paid accounts for bigger files. Zip up your images, upload them to www.yousendit.com , and then add those you wish to have the images to their notification list. They'll be notified and instructed on how to download the images. This service is very convenient, fast, and free.

I hope this helps.

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

An eventual week! I continue to test drive Windows 7 x64 Ultimate and will bring you a full report on the 'in-place' upgrade soon. Hopefully I'll also be able to include Craig Lamson's experiences with upgrading Windows 7, as it turns out we're both doing this at nearly the same time.

I have a few computer products I'm testing for review and I'll share those as well.

Meanwhile, I've sold the Bangkok Images SUV, the Toyota Fortuner. She's served me well, four years of service, 64,000km's, one set of front brakes and one new battery, and servicing every 5000km's. The economy with it's 4 cylinder diesel engine was really good averaging about 14kpl. I think it's important to provide a late model vehicle during my workshops, safety and comfort being of high priority. Security is also important.

I've already ordered her replacement and hopefully it will arrive and be put into service in the next 2-3 weeks. In anticipation of spending more time in rough country, more time along the borders, and some new workshops where we leave from Bangkok, head down south and through Malaysia, into Singapore, and back again via another route.

With this type of service in mind I ordered a new Toyota 4×4 4-door pickup. It will be the top model with leather, stereo, dual air, and many creature comforts, a top security system with engine immobilizer, and a very strong bed cover with special locks to keep our gear safe and easily accessible at the same time. I'll be adding dual winches, hi-lift jacks, and other off-road equipment so we'll never be stuck for long. I hope it arrives soon, I'm not that fond of taxi's!

Infocus Blog

Social Photographing

It's a pretty lame title, but the concept is a lot of fun.

About 5-6 years ago, maybe more, I belonged to a photography forum which had members from all corners of the globe. Over a period of years we'd gotten to know each other, names, where we lived, our favorite places to photograph, and even about our families.

Nikon D2h, 12-24mm F4 @F11 12mm ISO 200

We were always sharing images on this forum, and for sure we had a great time knowing each other. But we wanted to take it a step further. A step to make our socializing one step more personal and two steps more meaningful.

Someone came up with the idea that he'd buy a couple disposable digital cameras, and after making a list of who wanted to participate he would ship the cameras to the first person on the list.

The person who received the cameras would then take them on their next outing to their 'signature' location, a place we already associated this person by the images they'd already shared. While there, they'd use the cameras to take exactly two images. One from each camera. They'd photograph their signature location.

Nikon D2h, 12-24mm F4 @F11 14mm ISO 200

Keep in mind these are very simple cameras, not the expensive DSLRs most of us owned. There were no controls to speak of, no adjustments, we'd just have to wait for the right light and do our best. Once the two photographs were taken, the cameras would be packed up and sent on to the next person on the list.

A few fun and unplanned things happened with this process. As each person received the box with the cameras, the outer layer of paper was very carefully cut away and saved. After, the cameras were packed back in the box and the original outer layer of paper was reused to cover the box. This outer layer of paper soon accumulated stamps, postmarks, and customs stamps from over 50 countries! How fun is that?

This process took well over a year before the cameras were returned to the first person. During this year we wanted to see some progress along the way, and in the forum the person who had most recently received the cameras would let everyone know they received them. They'd then take them to their signature place, take the two photographs, and then find some creative way to photograph the cameras themselves using our DSLRs. We'd then post those photos in the forum to keep everyone up to date and excited about a fun project which was taking a long time to accomplish.

Nikon D2h, 12-24mm F4 @F11 12mm ISO 200

Amazingly the two disposable cameras made it back to the start. It took close to two years. He took the cameras and had them "developed" to prints, because that's how they worked.. and then he scanned the prints and made a large gallery with all the images the two cameras captured, and all the images of the two cameras we took with out DSLRs.

The gallery was a huge success. You felt part of something special, and indeed it was special. Looking at all the pictures, a photo of the battered box returned home, the outer layer of paper cut away and laid flat and photographed, as you looked over everything and realized the accomplishment of what just happened, it felt special.

Nikon D2h, 12-24mm F4 @F11 16mm ISO 200

Over 50 individuals who had never met and didn't owe anyone anything, at their own expense, their own time, went to great amounts of effort and inconvenience in some cases, to share their love of photography with each other. 50 people from almost as many countries cooperating and sharing something they loved.

Social Photographing. Will you be the person to start such a project in your circle?

Nikon D2h, 12-24mm F4 @F11 12mm ISO 200

Until next time..

THE LAST WORD –

I'm writing this at the last minute. I've just become aware of a practice at a local camera store which would be illegal in a western country, and is at least highly unethical here in Thailand.

I loaded up on baht and went to Mall Bangkapi on Ladphrao to purchase a camera and lens and two extra batteries. This store located on the 1st floor (one up from ground level) is a professional camera sales store, the only one in the mall.

I was surprised and taken aback that their noses turned up at me when I walked in the store. They didn't want to talk with me. "The price is the price" they said, no deals, no extras, no promotions. Ok I think, small differences. They write down the prices of the items. 89,800 for the camera, 56,400 for the lens, and 4500 for the spare battery. 4500 for the spare battery? The suggest retail on this battery is 2200 baht and I bring this to their attention. I'm given a very ugly look and told that's the price, it wouldn't change.

I tried to talk to them about it, but they insisted on charging over twice the retail price for the battery. I've since double checked the price to make sure I was correct. I was. I mentally noted the prices on many other accessories and checked them when I got home. It appears this store is grossly over charging for accessories after making the customer comfortable by offering reasonable prices on the bigger items. This is a practice certain New York stores used to try and get away with, and many still employ this questionable practice.

I walked. A customer has to be willing to walk away from a deal, even if it inconveniences them. It wasn't the extra 4600 baht I would have lost.. it was more than that. It was the principal, that they treated me like crap, and that they wouldn't talk about it. I was going to spend in excess of 150,000 baht in their store, right then. Instead I spent 0 baht.

Tomorrow I'll look for a new place where I spend huge amounts of money every year on equipment, and a new place to recommend to my readers, and a new place that knows the value of a customer.

Enough said.