In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog May 1st, 2010

Yunnan China/A Review, Samung PN50B860 50″ Plasma HDTV

Portugal Hotel Guide
Corinthia Santarem Hotel
Estalagem Do Vale Hotel
Pousada de Santa Clara Hotel
Pousada Quinta Da Ortiga Hotel

Thank you for your generous contributions. At the present time we have enough images to attempt our first mosaics but these are very time intensive and I'll need to plan a block of time to do these properly. I'm thinking the last few weeks in May or the first two weeks in June. Until then, any images you can manage to send in will still be used and will be much appreciated.

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]


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Feature Photograph Photo Outing- The Stone Forest – Yunnan China Review, Samsung PN50B860 50" Plasma HDTV Photography News of Interest

Readers Submissions Readers Questions A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review Infocus Blog, A Cultural Observation – The InfirmT


Feature Photograph *menu

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5 1/200th 165mm ISO 100

All the political turmoil these last few weeks has got me thinking. Perhaps I'm off-base on this but these are my thoughts on this image.

A friend and I were driving through Safari World not long ago and we both knew that if you go very slow and keep your eyes open you'll see things others miss. In this instance I spotted this empty nest not even 2 meters from the car. At first my friend didn't see it but soon it was all we could see.

You see, the baby bird in the nest by itself was crying out in hunger for its mother. Once you hear the sound you'll never forgot it. It resonates through the trees. It starts out and stays loud and doesn't stop until mom comes back with the grub. Usually no longer than 10-15 minutes. For some reason I decided to sit there and wait for mom and maybe photograph her feeding the chick.

10 minutes later, 20 minutes later, 30 minutes later.. no mom. By now the chick had cheeped itself hoarse and we'd discovered a second chick that had fallen out of the nest to the ground and who was trying to conceal itself under some shrubs until mom got back. We were in the tiger and lion pen and this chick instinctively knew.

40 minutes, 50 minutes, and my friend and I knew mom wouldn't be coming back. Did you enjoy "A Tiger Story" from last week? While waiting we were reviewing our images on the cameras LCD when we noticed the big sea bird the tigers were fighting over was indeed.. mom. This image is significant because it documents nature, a tragedy (for the bird), and the back story. The image by itself isn't that interesting.. but the back story brings it to life in a big way.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5 1/125th 200mm ISO 100

Back stories were made famous by Paul Harvey and his often emotional commentaries. Now they're a normal part of the news cycle, made into movies, and we're starting to look for and expect them. Movie DVD's often have "in the making" specials showing what it took to achieve certain scenes, interviews with original characters and more.. We've started to demand the back story finding it often more interesting than the main story.

How do you picture the ending of this particular back story? Certainly not good for the chicks. Though, some might find their struggles and eventual death "good tv."

As we watch the political protests on our televisions and read about them in the news, and you learn people have died or been gravely injured, do you wonder about their back story? Their lives, childhood, education, professional lives, family.. Tragedy comes in many forms. The protests don't entertain me. They scare me. Tragedies in the making on a grand scale.

Photo Outing- The Stone Forest – Yunnan China *menu

Tom Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative. Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area. Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here! I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.

When Tom agreed to become part of our small select product review team I was both excited and grateful. I hope you enjoy this and future reviews by Tom. For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books. Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: [email protected]

Of all the provinces I have visited in China the Yunnan Province in Southwestern China was without question one of the most interesting. Renowned for its incredible diversity in geology, people and culture it has fascinated travelers since Marco Polo and before.

While staying in Kunming we had a chance to take a tour to the Shir Lin, the Stone Forest. It is a very interesting geological formation of small jagged Karsts, pools and manicured lawns. I had seen a few pictures of it when planning the trip and those were enough to put it up there on my “To Do” list.

To get there we took a Chinese Day tour. Just being a part of the tour in and of itself was an interesting experience (that need not be repeated).

We started out in what at the time was the standard Chinese Tour bus.

Designed to seat 16 locals (but frequently packed with 22+). All the other tourists were Chinese, so this was a real “authentic” experience.

The ride to the Stone Forest was surprisingly smooth, especially in comparison to my previous experiences over roads that only a tire salesman would love. We went up into some mountains and through some very nice countryside.

Crops were intensely cultivated throughout the countryside but not nearly with the same pressure or intensity Taiwan or Eastern China.

Much to my surprise our first stop on the trip was not at our destination (which was allegedly 45 minutes away) but at a Jade Shop in the middle of nowhere.

I was soon to learn that shopping at predetermined places was in fact the main focus of any Chinese tour. Yea, you’ll spend some time at the place you wanted to go but you’ll log far more hours at the shops and restaurants that the tour operator has an “arrangement” with (they get a cut or bounty for each sucker they deliver).

After the jade stop we went through some more countryside before stopping at a restaurant.

The food was decent and I was somewhat surprised by the speed at which it was sucked down by the group. Fortunately I didn’t have to use the “facilities”.

There were also some tourist stalls to blow a bit of RMB at.

The Stone Forest

We arrived at the Stone Forest a short while later. At first I wasn’t too impressed; it looked a lot like a garden.

The overwhelming majority of visitors here were part of organized tour groups, which is actually the norm for many places. Chinese tourists like to travel in groups, not individually.

Each group was lead by a tour guide. Some of them were dressed up in the traditional costumes of the Yi people. They are one of the ethnic groups native to the area.

There was a pond with a LOT of fish. A common feature in many Chinese parks.

As we got deeper into the park. Things started to get more impressive.

Our tour guide hurriedly took us from attraction to attraction. She actually teamed up with another tour guide and group. One would take the front and the other the back.

Their primary objective seemed to be to keep us together as a herd and shove us through the park as quickly as possible.

The Park contained many different stone formations made of some type of igneous rock. They were often covered with vines or other foliage.

Many of the more interesting rocks had stories attributed to them. There was a common theme through the park linking many of the rocks which was the story of A Shir Ma. It was a tale of a lovely young girl who was in love with a man. For various reasons they could not be together and they had to struggle against many things to be together. In the end the heavens took pity on them and turned them into these rocks so they could be together always.

This rock was supposed to be Ai Shir Ma. Holding flowers from her lover.

Another somewhat less distinct rock was supposed to be her lover.

The rocks in this picture were supposed to represent the teeth of one of the giant beast the lovers faced.

Some of the rocks had broken and fallen over the years. This rock appeared to be precariously balanced.

There was a rock above a pond that had been struck by lighting and the top of it had broken off (or so said the tour guide.)

In several places in the park they had what some might consider graffiti on the rocks. Some famous official had some words carved in and painted red. It seemed to fit in well oddly enough.

One of the rocks looked almost like boiling lava.

The High Point of the place was a walk up to a pagoda which gave you a commanding view of the park.

However this is also where the crowds were at their worst. One you got going there was no turning back.

The surge of humanity was crushing. You were propelled along whether you wanted to or not. Despite being the highest place and relatively open the collective heat of the crowd made it pretty hot.

After the high point was over we did a little exploring on our own, much to the dismay of our tour guides. They extolled us to have “Team Spirit” and stick with the group.

The grounds of the park were really very nice and well manicured.

We soon saw why. They had a small army of groundskeepers attending the place.

We also got a good look at one of the roto-tiller cars that are ubiquitous in rural China.

After our tour guides had run us through the Stone Forest I wondered what was next. We were not due back to Kunming for many hours. That question was soon answered when we got herded into a “Tea demonstration”.

We got to sit there for quite a while with several chain smoking men and their wives while a local extolled the virtues and gave out samplings of many of the different tea’s that were for sale. I’ve never been a big tea guy but I have to say this stuff was way better than what we got at restaurants back home. Much stronger with different flavors. In the end we bought a few bottles of some of Yunnan’s finest.

After the Tea sampling we were herded back to the bus. We spent some time driving back through the countryside. I found it interesting that along the way we passed through small villages that had very large hotels in them or under construction. I found out they were to support gambling operations that were being set up in the area.

Our next stop was temple on the side of a hill. It was supposed to be a very old temple though it looked very newly remodeled.

They had a decorative wall that was reminiscent of the 9 Dragon Wall at the Forbidden City.

It was interesting to check out and it gave a good view of the surrounding countryside.

Coming back we saw many signs of road construction and maintenance. There was very little automation or machinery and most of it was done by hand.

We also saw one of the local specialties, smoked duck, being prepared.

We arrived back in Kunming about 45 minutes after our scheduled arrival time. It had been an interesting day and an interesting experience traveling with a Chinese Tour group. I learned that Chinese tourists have a very different focus than westerners, something I would come to understand in greater depth in my further travels. But it was a good trip. The Stone Forest is defiantly worth seeing, just don’t go with a Chinese tour group and be prepared for the crowds.

A Review, Samsung PN50B860 50" Plasma TV *menu

Introduction

I've often asked if I use my HDTV to view images and what kind of TV I use. I'm going to limit this review to answering these questions and the 'why' involved with my decisions. I'll also go over some techniques/knowledge you might find useful if you're planning your own purchase.

I consider many factors, but because these aren't actual imaging monitors I'm more concerned with pricing than I normally would be. My priorities are tilted to favor features, image quality, and pricing.

Plasma, LCD, LED, 3D, What Type To Get?

As consumers we're faced with tons of choices and with televisions an annual product cycle. In the spring time they roll out the new sets telling us that last years sets are obsolete and somehow magically not the great technology they were the year before. Understand that most of this is marketing rather than substance.

I'm going to simply run down a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each type as they apply to my personal criteria.

3D

3D sets are all the rage of the newest models being released this month in Asia. There aren't many movies out yet in 3D but I'd imagine there will be more titles available with time. The issue for me is I don't want to wear glasses to view a movie and all of these sets come with only one pair of 3D glasses with additional pairs for other family members and guests costing upwards of $300 USD's or more. Even if I had 3D I doubt I'd use it much. 3D viewing is fatiguing, requires the wearing of glasses, and if the movie theater experience is any judge I'm just not very interested. I wouldn't be too concerned with this feature, I could easily do without 3D.

LED LCD

All flat panel televisions are 'backlit' with some type of lighting. Usually these come in the form of FFL's (thin fluorescent tubes) located behind the display that light the pixels from the rear. The newest technology for back lighting is the Light Emitting Diode, or LED.

LED's have several advantages and no serious disadvantage other than what I call "new technology pricing." They are much more efficient than FFL's, produce less heat, and light more evenly. Without a doubt these are the future of flat panel design. Unfortunately the technology is still very new (on the market) which makes it only available in the most expensive feature laden sets and subsequently very expensive.

I like LED technology but I can wait until it's mainstream both in availability and pricing.

LCD

Liquid Crystal Displays, or LCD's have been around a long time now. They are yesterdays LED's. We were told (accurately) that soon LCD's would replace plasma technology and require less power to run and (inaccurately) would provide better image quality. LCD's use FFL's for backlighting. LCD's are everywhere at all price points. If you're buying a new television today you'll probably be buying an LCD whether you know it or not.

Plasma

Ten years ago plasma technology was the brand new technology and priced accordingly. For most, they provided the first very flat and very bright screens that seemed to jump out at you. There were other technologies competing (DLP, projection, CRT's) but they're all history now. Plasma persevered.

Plasma sets use plasma filled capsules vs. the liquid crystals of LCD's and are backlit with FFL's just like today's LCD's. However, because of their inherent characteristics plasma's are brighter and more lifelike than their LCD counterparts though newer LCD technology has closed 'most' of this gap. Plasma's use more energy than LCD's by about 10% and more than LED sets by about 30-35%.

Here's where I pay attention. The best quality plasma sets have the best image quality (of any type) and because plasma is at the end of its produce lifecycle plasma's are also priced very low. You can get 720p plasma's for well under 25,000 baht inside Thailand. The best sets retailed during this last year for as much as 129,000 baht. Clearly for an HDTV purchase that will be used part time for image presentation plasma holds several advantages.

My Choice

It's spring time and the major manufacturers are preparing to roll out the latest high-tech models throughout Thailand. This (and the recent political protests closing shopping centers and forcing down sales) means whatever inventory remaining on the shelves is subject to heavy discounting and other promotions. However, I was only interested in one particular set from the outgoing models. The Samsung PN50B860 50" Plasma 1080p. From my research and hands-on observation I knew I would find this set acceptable for the right price. So I went shopping.

Over the course of several days I talked to many salespeople, and in Thailand this means I kept shopping until I found a salesman not only who knew the product, but was willing to work with me and who had the set I was after. I found him at the Mall Bangkapi in "The Mall Store."

He only had a floor model left and I'd already verified there were no NIB (new in box) sets available anywhere. This model had been on the floor for four months at 12 hours a day. I figure roughly 5% of it's life has been used. Otherwise it was perfect, had all the original accessories, and the original packing. We sat down to dicker.

This previously 129,000 set (last spring) was most recently 89,000. However, this floor model with all the current promotions including 7% off for using the right visa card came to 52,00 delivered! That's 60% of it's original price off, for 5% of it's lifespan used. Acceptable! We made our deal, I paid, and delivery was made the next day.

Samsung PN50B860 1080p 50" Plasma HDTV

I'll start by saying this set so far performs brilliantly and I'm very impressed. It's a night and day difference over my old 50" 1080p DLP Samsung, though that 12 year old technology has served me well.

This set is just over 1 inch 'thin' and its looks are appealing. It sets on a brushed aluminum stand with a pivot which allows it to easily be swiveled left or right.

Swiveled to the side it retains it's clean lines and (I think) will remain acceptably chic for most interior designs.

The back panel is cleverly laid out allowing 4 HDMI inputs, 2 component, and 1 composite. It also has a computer DVI and VGA D9 plug, a LAN Ethernet connector, and S-video. The panel is laid out in such a way that once the cables are in place the set can still swivel and keep the cables out of sight.

The bezel is a bit wide for my taste but attractive enough.

There are a range of features I'll 'briefly' describe. The set is "DLNA" aware, which means with the assistance of the provided DLNA software your PC can be detected and content (music/movies) streamed over your home LAN. A wireless adapter is available. It also displays a limited set of Yahoo widgets such as weather and major news and can access YouTube, Flickr, and some others. It can also access Samsungs content library which while interesting is limited. I found the promise of DLNA alluring.

The anti-reflective coatings are the best I've ever seen. My set sits in front of a large wall of glass with the sun shining right on the set, yet reflections are very minimized and the picture is very easy to see. Plasma's allow the greatest viewing angle of any set out there so your guests seated to the side of the screen will see it as well as you.

18 bit processing probably sounds like gobblytechnook to most of you, but I highly suspect it's what allows this set to display my images with such precision. I compared some 8, 12, and 14 bit sets and it's easy to see the difference.

Here you can see some of the Yahoo widgets available. Keep in mind that sets built for the non-Thai market seem to support a lot more widgets. If the widgets aren't supported in the sets firmware you can't use them, which effectively negates its real usefulness to this user.

Okay, so it's a full featured set that has more bells and whistles than the competition and I got a great deal. But what can this set really do for me?

Color Profiling and Viewing Images

For those of you who haven't yet discovered the magic of a properly color profiled computer imaging monitor you probably won't be inclined to color profile your HDTV, but let me tell you that color profiling is the single most important adjustment you can make to your new set.

A proper analogy for color profiling would liken it to giving a car a tune-up. Depending on where the cars dwell and timing and carburator settings were to begin with, a tune-up can make the difference between barely starting and running like a top. Televisions have just as much range of adjustment as a car, just because it currently 'appears' to be running correctly doesn't mean it is. Profile your television and computer monitor to discover the hidden power and efficiency you've already paid for but haven't been getting. Did you know there are "color technicians" whose full time job is to color profile high-end home theater systems? Their testing gear costs thousands of dollars, but you can do 95% as well for under $100.

How you color profile your HDTV depends on what you're connecting to that input. I will list each experience by the input.

Computer Workstation via HDMI Input

I connect my workstation to the Samsung HDTV via a 10 meter long HDMI cable so my computer is providing the video signal. By putting the HDTV "normal" color mode I can now use my workstation to build a color profile the same way I do for a computer monitor. And I do that by using X-rite's Eye One Display 2 device.

If you know how to built a color profile for your regular computer monitor than you can do exactly the same with your HDTV connected to your workstation via HDMI or any other means of connection. However, you must have a video card that supports the additional LUT.

Properly profiled my images appear 'perfectly' on the Samsung 50" Plasma panel with a visual impact only 50 inches of monitor can provide. There is not a single iota of difference in color and/or brightness between my computer monitor and the plasma when running this profile. The images are stunning!

Western Digital TV Live via HDMI

I'll be reviewing this gem of a media server in the following weeks, but for now know that it works really well as advertised. It detected any content on my network storage or any PC's on my home network and plays them on the Samsung Plasma. The standard color settings work very well but I wanted them better.

I brought up a standard color test image on the screen and carefully adjusted the controls on the Plasma to match what I knew from experience it should be. This isn't close enough to make images like on an imaging workstation, but it works great for viewing movies. I didn't expect to notice much difference but there was a significant improvement.

DVD Blue-Ray via HDMI

This is where it gets tricky. You just can't throw up a test image on a DVD player. There are some inexpensive 'test' DVD's available where you an adjust by eye, but if I'm going to spend all the money for a 50" Plasma, a Blue-ray player, and a Blue-ray movie, then I want it to be right. For this I've been using Datacolor's Spyder3tv device which effectively operates under the same principals as when profiling a computer monitor. The actual workflow is a bit different and takes longer, but the results are worth it!

The difference in this case is shocking! I've always known a properly profiled computer monitor makes a world of difference when viewing images, so it only makes sense it could/would on a TV as well.. and it does.

Conclusion

Folks, it's 2010 and we live in great times for new technology and this plasma demonstrates this with aplomb. This is not your grandfathers 12" Emerson! This is a stunning visual experience whether you're viewing your favorite images or the newest movie.

I'm really happy I have one of the last great plasma sets. I compare them to muscle cars in that they use more power and the environmentalists don't care for them, but it's an experience you'll only get with a large displacement V8 or a top quality plasma.

And no.. you cannot use a HDTV of any type as a substitute for a computer monitor. The resolution of an HDTV 1080p is 1920×1080, and spread across 50 inches or more this makes for very large pixels that would strain your eyes. But from across the room for viewing an image they're wonderful!

As I write this review, 2 days before it goes live, I've verified there are several of these sets out there (Seacon Square for one) at similar discounts.

I'll be enjoying my set for many years.

Photography News of Interest *menu

This week Adobe released the RTM (production) version of Lightroom Version 2.7 and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 5.7. You can get your Windows version of Lightroom here, and your Mac version of Lightroom here. A Windows version of ACR is posted here, and the Mac version here.

Nikon announces their new AF-S 200-400m F/4G ED VR II zoom telephoto which has been very popular with sports shooters and some wildlife shooters. This lens remains largely unchanged from the previous version with the single exception of an improved VR (vibration reduction) which is said to give 4 stops of improvement vs. the older models 3 stops.

Israel recently announced a ban on Apples Ipad claiming its wireless transmitter might not be compatible with their countries systems, and less than a week later reversed your decision. It seems they would have worked this out prior to the release, how did it make people feel when customs confiscated their shiny new Ipads on their way home from vacation?

Canon posted a firmware upgrade for the EOS 7D DSLR that promises to fix several bugs with the most important being a vertical magenta banding.

If you were one of the early adopters of the Olympus E-P1, E-P2, E-PL1 Olympus Pen Micro 4/3's cameras you'll want to run this updater to update to the latest firmware which offers some very real auto focus improvements.

The Sony A850 DSLR offers a 24.6mp full frame sensor for under $3000 USD's. This is direct competition to Canon's EOS 5d Mark II, but unfortunately there is as of yet no Nikon equivalent. Digital Photography Review releases a comprehensive review which it's usual well reasoned conclusion.

Digital Photograph Reviewreviews the Olympus M ZD 9-18mm 1:4.0-5.6 ED lens here.

Have you ever noticed your long white nose making smudges on your DSLRs LCD? You'd think there's no avoiding this problem but Sony just released this concept solution. You'd think they'd be worrying about other issues..

USB 3.0 has barely hit the shelves whenIntel announces it's new "Light Peak" which obsoletes USB 3.0. Light Peak promises twice the 5gbps speed of USB 3.0 to start with speeds of up to 100gbps possible, and promises "daisychain" connectivity allowing a single port and a single cable to power/run as many Light Peak devices as you wish.

Readers Submissions *menu

Hi Steve,

I heard from the grapevine that you like guns!
Me Too!

I used to shoot feral goats in Australia with a REMINGTON Varmiter 22/250 and also used a REMINGTON 308 that had a floated barrel and 7-12 x 55 Tasco World Class scopes.

I'm in Lampang at the moment staying with my wife's parents for Songkran and I've been able to take some photos of the festival here.

I've also had a bit of time to take other photos of the area around where I'm staying. Some in HDR, here is one of the railway bridge which is only about 500m from her parents house.

Do you think the colors are good, or are they oversaturated?
The look on the young boy's face in "children having fun 3.jpg" is priceless I think!

Charles

Hi Charles –

Yes, I do enjoy the shooting sports though I'm not a hunter of animals. It appears you're having a fine time visiting the relatives and escaping the crazy Songkran antics here in Bangkok.

For my tastes the colors are a bit saturated but they're well within the realm of personal taste. Whenever making adjustments in post processing carefully watch the other aspects of the image such as detail, color channel levels, and exposure levels. Almost always boosting one degrades the other.. which is why its so important to try and get it right inside the camera.

Steve


Steve

Here is the group of Harley owners in HCMC.

Nice bunch – very hospitable.

Bart

Bart –

Thank you once again! I really appreciate you sharing your work with us. If anyone wants to give Bart feedback on his contributions please send them to me and I'll forward them on.

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 *menu

Hello Steve,

a friend of mine has lent me a copy of PTGui version 8.3.3 and I tried using it to make a Doi Inthanon Panorama, but the image looks distorted compared to the image I made using Panorama Maker 4 Pro.
here are the two images.

Do you have an idea why this is so?

Charles

Charles – I'm going to forward this question to one of our review team, Tom Tweedel, because he's much more experienced with this particular piece of software than am I.

From Tom: Hi Charles,

Looking at the two panorama’s the biggest difference is the aspect ratio. That is the ratio of the long side divided by the short side the Panorama Maker is about 2.1/1 vs. PTGUI 2.5/1. You have the same basic data (though it looks like it might have been cropped) but on one it is stretched wider. This is usually a function of the type of projection used.

Do you remember if you were using Rectilinear, Cylindrical or Equirectiliner projection to do the PTGUI stitch? You might try adjusting that. The method that you use can modify the final output. You might experiment with the different projection methods to see which one works best for a shot of that many degrees.

Nice Place and good shot..

Tom

Hi Steve

Sorry to be bother you but I’m looking at making a few purchases & I wanted to check with you first if it is OK.

After the nightmare of buying that Tamron wide angle lens that was not suited to a full frame sensor I just wanted your opinion.

I’m looking at getting a

Gitzo Explorer GT2531EX

retailing for about $900 to $1000 AUD

The explorer has an offset centre column which gives ita versatile range and looks like it can get very low down. My only worry is the stability of the centre column.

It's been a while since I purchased a new tripod.. which is the beauty of Gitzo's.. they're lifetime equipment. However, I would very much shy away from this type of center column unless you absolutely need it. It adds weight and complexity.. but most of all it's a point that can add vibration. And no matter how sturdy it might look it can still vibrate where you're eyes can't see. To test, mount your camera on the tripod and put it in "Live View" and then zoom in to the 10x setting. Now touch anything, or let the wind blow over it, and watch the rear LCD screen.. it will probably be jittering like crazy. If not, it works fine.

I think the size you're picking is ideal.. and the carbon fibre is the way to go. It's just that articulating column that gives me pause. Most people buying this model are using it for macro work more than landscapes or sports or whatever..

Acratech GP Ball Head

I'm a bit divided on this model. I love Acratech and have been using their "Ultimate Ballhead" for years. It's a great piece of equipment and perfect for lightweight kit. But.. This GP seems unnecessarily complex.. which means there are things which could break.. and do you think you're going to be using all those features? It advertises that it works as a gimbal head but I really can't see how.. I'll set you up on a gimbal head next time you're here and let you see what a real one works like and why/when you'd want to use one.

Is the Ultimate significantly less expensive? The Ultimate is a good product.. time proven.. and if it will do what you need and its cheaper it might be the better value.

I'd love to try the GP.. but having not used it I can only share my thoughts.

Retailing for about $500 AUD

You would know better than me what I would need in terms of Tripods.

I think my requirements are something that is sturdy, stable & strong. It also needs to be good for travel. I don’t think I want something as small as the one Dave bought in Bangkok but I don’t think I need something as big as your professional one.

I don’t know if you have had much experience with Acratech, but the shop I was talking to recommended it over similar gitzo models.

If you type in Acratech Ballheads; Features and Options in the search on YouTube there is a tutorial/sales talk on it.

Acratech I like.. at least their ball heads. I'd still get my L-bracket from Reallyrightstuff.com and the same for any lens plates. Also look at the lever cam lock plates that you can buy to replace the stock plates on the ballhead.

This might be an item you'll want to hold off buying until after our next workshop. We can try my Gitzo tripod more in depth than last time and I can mount the Acratech Ballhead on it. If it does everything you need it to do.. then simply buy a smaller Gitzo with the same functions and consider if you'll save much getting the Ultimate ballhead over the G2.. Like anything else there are some significant techniques involved with using tripods.. after we go through them you'll have a much better idea what you need.

I’ve been looking at getting a desktop computer and found your blog on building my own & I’m thinking seriously about doing so. The only question is monitors. I’ve been to a couple of PC shops & they all shy away from recommending anything for digital image editing.

I'd be glad to help you spec out a system. There are some finer points to consider when choosing the components and how they work together.. Let me know your desires and your budget and I'll work up a list of components.

Take Care Rod. It's good to see you're progressing with your photography. I can't wait to see some of your images on your return trip.

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 *menu

Sometimes I just don't know where to start and this is one of those weeks. Actually the weeks are running together and I've been very busy.

Several clients have canceled their vacation plans in Bangkok due to the protests so I've been free to commit myself to preparing for our new sites grand opening on the 22nd of this month.

I've been putting in every waking moment migrating content to the new site and working with the web guy on design and visuals. I can't do this properly and be on the road collecting content at the same time, so for now and until the site opens on May 22 I won't be posting many new reports on places inside Thailand.

However, Tom Tweedel is working up a two part special about his travels within China and Beijing specifically. I've had a sneak peak at the material and it's pretty darn good. I think those of you with an interest in China will really like it, and the rest will appreciate the photography and story telling. For sure something to look forward to next week!

Here at Bangkok Images we've made real progress in several areas. We bid on and won our new URL address which we'll feature on the grand opening and our old www.bkkimages.com address will be redirected to the new site.

We've replaced our presentation monitor with a new 50" Plasma which allows real time color profiled image presentation and review for our clients.

We have a load of new items coming in for review including new NEC imaging monitors, Lenovo's x201s ultra-portable laptop, Western Digital's Media Helper WD Media Live, Quantum flash products, and much more. As we get these in we'll give them a few weeks of hands on use and then turn out some great reviews to share.

Infocus Blog, A Cultural Observation – The Infirm *menu

In the 90's I was the Prosthetic Department Head at a major Veterans Hospital. During my time there, and from my own time as an inpatient (3 years total), and my time returning for regular medical visits I've developed a pretty good sense of the attitude of patients in America.

No matter how injured or how weak a patient might have been, they fought like hell for what little bit of dignity and independence they have left. Something as simple as feeding themselves might be looked at as a big achievement and worthy of self-pride. This would go double at the VA hospitals because soldiers from all countries will always fight that much harder.

Sit outside a hospital in America and watch them transfer a patient to a family members car, and you'll see the patient doing all they can to assist. They might not be able to help at all, and sometimes they're having the reverse affect, but they're certainly trying and giving it all they have.

When I contrast this to what I've seen in Thailand I'm perplexed. Virtually 100% of the infirm in Thailand don't try to help at all. Instead, they'll sit there in their wheelchair doing their best to take their minds somewhere else, anywhere else but in their sick body fighting to survive. They effectively turn into a bag of potatoes someone else has to move around.

To make matters worse in the great majority of cases I'm witnessing the infirm Thai's caregivers having a remarkably cavalier attitude bordering on total indifference to the feelings and dignity of the patient. They're none to careful during transfers, often banging heads and appendages against the door frames with enough force to stun a healthy person so I can imagine its torture to the patient.

Why is this? Have the infirm in Thailand outlived their usefulness to society in the eyes of the healthy? Are they seen as taking up valuable resources better put to use elsewhere? Do their families stop loving them because they're sick or old?

Sometimes its all I can do to not lecture these insensitive family members and I'm sure if my Thai was better I'd do so more often. However, for the most part I limit myself to smiling at the family and helping the infirm carefully and with dignity make their transfer. My thinking is maybe if they see how much easier it can be for the patient then.. Ok, I'm probably fooling myself.

There are many values and attitudes that fit into this topic and frankly my observations help explain what I see as concerns in other areas. Needless to say there is a lot of room for improvement in the average Thai's mindset concerning the old and infirm. Many should feel ashamed of themselves. Ashamed of the culture which allows them to be this way. As family or friends of the infirm we should strive to make their remaining time as enjoyable as possible. Helping them live with dignity and a strong spirit goes a long way towards this end.

Until next time..