Angkor Vat II / WD HD Live
• Royal Legend Safari Lodge & Spa
• Protea Hotel Tsitsikamma Village
• Garden Court Ulundi Hotel
• Zimbali Lodge Hotel Umhlali
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]
Quick Click Links
Feature Photograph *menu
Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/2000th ISO 100
As photographers and journalists I ask you: What are our responsibilities for bringing to the attention of authorities issues of environmental, civil, or criminal wrongdoing? Have you given this much thought? It's a topic which is constantly on my mind and for which I have no concrete answer. I wish I did.
Photographers are by nature a curious bunch and we're out there with our cameras as trained observers and increasing our observation skills with every day's work. We see things, perhaps a pickpocketing. Do we just take the pictures of the thief with his fingers in his victims pockets.. or do instead try to prevent the theft? If not able to prevent do we then report? Obviously any sort of overt intervention opens the individual photographer/journalist up to all types of danger.
In this modern day police officials are well aware that every citizen is potentially armed with a phone camera, either still or video, and I think this is a good thing. But the bad guys, the dangerous guys, they're aware of this as well. More often than ever before I've noticed an unwillingness if not downright hostility to taking pictures in Thailand where before we'd be welcomed with open arms and huge smiles. Now we're shooed away and told pictures aren't allowed. This really is a complex topic and indeed more than we can cover in a few opening paragraphs. Take this subject to mind and give it considerable thought. Share your thoughts if you've a mind to.
This feature photograph is of a juvenile seabird at a popular Thailand attraction. He's obviously extremely deformed, a deformity of the type associated with toxic chemical dumps. Look at his bulging forehead, thick neck, and inset eyes. This isn't an isolated case. As a frequent visitor to this attraction I see many of the babies before they're culled and through a high powered telephoto lens can see defects and deformities on adults that were allowed to pass. One or two wouldn't raise suspicion, but dozens or hundreds in the same small location certainly does.
Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/640th ISO 100
This image shows what the seabird is supposed to look like. It was taken a few weeks earlier and shows a normal bird next to the defective bird. This is the tip of the iceberg.. I fear there is much more to learn.
This image is significant because it documents what may be a very real environmental issue and it makes us pause and consider our responsibilities as photographers and journalists. Of course we want to do everything we can to ensure everything possible is being done. But will it help if we lose access? Put ourselves at personal risk? Something of this nature can upset our lives in huge ways. I'm interested in your opinions and input.
Angkor Vat II *menu
Angkor Vat Cambodia is a Hindu complex built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Recently it was in the running for the 8th wonder of the world. These fabulous Khmer temples span many square kilometers and in fact outer temple structures have been discovered hundreds of kilometers away. There is certainly a lot to see here, and of course we want to photograph it. My first piece on Angkor Vat was just a primer, today we'll discuss how best to photograph the site and I'll share some examples.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F11 1/40th 58mm ISO 100
The problem with photographing Angkor Vat is that it's damn hard to make really good photographs of the place. It's not enough to just photograph something old or something no one has seen before, you also need to keep composition in mind. To start with, the weather is almost always very difficult, hot, humid, glaring sun or deep darkness. Achieving decent light, shadows, and any sort of depth is only possible for about 15-20 minutes per day at any given location. You need to study the site and desired shooting locations noting the surroundings, direction, and headings. Make a plan and then shoot the plan.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 90mm F2.8 TSE @F9 1.6 secs ISO 200
On the interiors stray and directional light opportunities can really make for an interesting image. Angkor Vat is going to make you work very hard for any sort of decent image, so these types of opportunities should be taken advantage of. Directional light and shadow lend depth and scale to the composition and can make even drab boring scenes more interesting.
Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F8 36 secs 13mm ISO 100
There is certainly a lot of texture and shape at Angkor. This simple passageway was a long exposure with an ultra-wide angle lens that shows the texture and patterns of the stones and arches. By using a cap on/off technique it's possible to capture "ghostly" images of fellow photographers for effect.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F8 1/40th 70mm ISO 800
This image was an accident and I've talked about it before. I was driving by and at the last minute stuck half my body out the window to grab this shot. Can you tell the car was moving at nearly 40kph? The light striking the great roots of the tree towards the end of the day caught my attention as did the landscaped scene.
Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24 F4 @F11 1/15th 24mm ISO 200
I remember my guide taking me from my comfortable hotel at 0400 and driving me for what seemed like a good few kilometers before finally arriving at our destination. Using the light from our cell phones we stumbled about 400 meters from the vehicle before stopping in complete darkness. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. He told me to set up my camera, point it in that direction (in the dark I could only see his face and half his arm), and to be ready for the sunrise. What really surprised me was that I thought we were alone, but as the sun rose I realized there were hundreds of locals and tourists standing next to us waiting for this awesome scene.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 90mm F2.8 TSE @F8 1/8th ISO 200
Throughout the complex you'll find old crumbling structural remains amongst huge rooted trees with tons of foliage. It's very difficult to show any sort of depth or color in these images as the light is extremely flat. I had to come up with a processing profile to get any sort of contrast or depth.. so sometimes you do your best to make the image in post processing.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 90mm F2.8 TSE @F11 1/60th ISO 200
A popular scene straight from Laura Croft Tomb Raider. Giant roots, ancient ruins. The original image was extremely flat and unsaturated. I went back to this scene a dozen times and the light remained horrible each and every time. I've processed this image to about 5-6 final renditions. This is the latest.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 90mm F2.8 TSE @F8 1/20th ISO 200
Here I was doing my best to show access through the path using my Canon 90mm TSE lens. This is an incredibly sharp lens and the tilt/shift capabilities I think helped lend the feeling that you're walking right in the middle of the ruins. A TSE lens isn't a normal lens a tourist would carry on a long journey, but I sneaked one along anyways and made excellent use of it.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 90mm F2.8 TSE @F11 1/10th ISO 200
These giant tree roots obscure the entrances to the ancient temple. These roots are as alive as you and me and I tried to give that feeling. Again, a unique post processing workflow was necessary to deal with the flat contrast-free light.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 90mm F2.8 TSE @F11 1/8th ISO 200
Here I used an 'aging' workflow to date the image to a certain era. This leaves us free to concentrate on the great roots and temple structures.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F14 1/6th 24mm ISO 400
A more generous framing of the next image in this sequence that shows more of the structures texture, added some large tree roots, an upper arch, and steps. Did it make the shot more interesting? I'm not sure.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F14 1/5th 35mm ISO 400
This framing allows us to concentrate beyond the door frame and on to the light falling on the big stones inside the building. It also brings the green door frame front and center to the composition to great effect.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F14 1/5th 24mm ISO 400
Leaning against a great tree centuries old I wiped the sweat from my eyes and rinsed the grit from my mouth with a bottle of hotel water and then sat observing this scene. The light killed it as it had during my previous 6-7 visits. To show the scale to more effect I selected a 12mm rectangular lens, used the great tree as my foreground, the two buildings as my mid-ground, and the far building and tree as a background.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F8 1/50th 28mm ISO 400
This is one of my favorite images. The giant tree roots were a sight to behold as they covered more and more of the highly detailed hand carvings. I couldn't help but think these great roots were covering stone carvings human eyes haven't seen in centuries of time. Again, I used my Canon 90mm TSE to help give the feeling you were right there on the path and then I aged the image to match the venue.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F8 1/80th 24mm ISO 400
Most often the scenes just look cluttered. Big piles of stones, huge trees, multiple structures.. no apparent rhyme or reason to anything. In person it's overwhelming, but when viewed through a 12mm ultra-wide lens the scene takes on new meaning.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F9 1/30th 24mm ISO 400
Late afternoon near sunset provided this image. See he sun angling in past the roots and into the hollow? The different shades of green, the many different carvings, and no fewer than five door frames though you can only see 3 easily.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F9 1/30th 24mm ISO 400
Huge piles of stones are everywhere you look. The preservation teams have each of these stones labeled, measured, and fed into a computer program to help them put the structure back together in its original form. With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck this pile of stones will be resurrect itself as a structure once again.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F8 1.6 secs 45mm ISO 900
As the sun sets over the main complex I once again set up my tripod for a long exposure, capturing the waters reflections and evenings sky colors. There is a type of magic to Angkor Vat.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-105mm F4L IS @F11 1/200th 35mm ISO 200
These small individual structures are everywhere, though most of them have long fallen.
Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24 F4 @F11 1/100th 14mm ISO 100
An infrared capture of a fallen wall capped with the ancient roots of a long dead tree. Stones that used to make up the wall are now strewn everywhere, perhaps by design, providing the visiting photographer the unique gift of a rare composition. At 14mm a different perspective is captured than was seen.
Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 @F8 1/5th 35mm ISO 100
You can easily spend all day walking around a hot, dusty/gritty, colorless maze of ruins and not see a single color other than green and grey, so when I came upon this scene, barely visible to the naked eye in its darkness, I carefully and quietly set up the tripod and with a long exposure made one of my favorite images depicting a local in quiet prayer and the brilliant colors or the flowers, robes, and carpets.
Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24 F4 @F11 1.6 secs 17mm ISO 100
Outside another alter/shrine was assembled but it didn't have nearly the effect of the scene above. This sets in plenty of light and you can snap it with a point and shoot compact. The image above requires a 'photographer' with the dedication to carry the gear which allows him/her to capture the scene only experience makes visible to the experienced eye.
Photographing Angkor Vat with any sort of competence is very difficult, but with proper planning and thoughtful gear selection, a lot of time and even more patience, it can be done. These aren't my best shots, but they are the best I haven't already shared..
I plan on a road trip to Angkor Vat sometime in July. A cross country drive from Bangkok, across rural Thailand, and into 12th century Cambodia. I'm hoping it makes for a memorable experience and I'll be uploading images and my journal several times a day.
Western Digital TV Live HD Media Player Reviewed *menu
A month or so back I reviewed my new Samsung PN50B860 50" Plasma 1080p HDTV and during the review I mentioned this awesome little HD media player from Western Digital. I promised to get back to you with a review and after using it now for a few months I feel I can contribute some meaningful comments on this little gem.
Samsung leads other manufacturers with built in internet and web based features that allow access to YouTube, Flickr, web radio, web TV, functional widgets from Yahoo or Google, and of course the computers and storage on your home network. Unfortunately the best wasn't good enough. Not yet. It might be several generations from now, but not today. Today it's slow and cumbersome, very selective on what types of storage devices it's compatible with, and what web based services it offers. Each service must be directly supported. Disappointed with the execution of these features I looked for an alternative.
I sat down with a pencil and paper and made a list of the available features I wanted. Most modern televisions have a USB port where you can plug-in a USB thumb drive or even a USB powered hard drive and play files from there. For many this is all they'll need, at least until they realize many of their favorite files from the internet aren't supported by the televisions firmware. Do you want network support? Wi-fi? YouTube access or other internet based widgets? The ability to plug your digital camera into it? My most important features was the ability to play ANY file I might have acquired from any source, and the ability to tap into my home network and find these files on any computer or network attached storage (NAS) device.
It didn't take me long to find 4-5 popular devices on the web so I started going through the specifications keeping my priorities in mind. Several were ruled out because they didn't have HDMI output, two more ruled out because they didn't support as many file types as two others, and one of the remaining was ruled out because it didn't offer network support. That left two. One was a Chinese off-brand that a friend is using with great success, and the other was the WD TV Live media player I'm reviewing. Going to the Western Digital website, support, I noticed they'd been updating the firmware to accommodate newer features and more file types every few months. The Chinese version didn't have any updates. A quick trip to Pantip Plaza and 4900 baht later I had the Western Digital media player.
Setup was easy. I plugged in the power cord, ran a HDMI cable to the television, and plugged in a LAN cable. The LAN cable is only necessary if you want access to your home network, the computers which are part of that network, and any network attached storage (NAS) devices. While I was there I ran an optical TOSLINK (fiber optic) cable to my home theater system so I could have 7.1 channels when watching movies. Any input connectors are supported from composite to component to HDMI to SPDIF opticals.
Choosing the settings took a bit more thought. This is where I checked the WD's firmware and updated it to the latest version, all automatic and via the units remote control. I also selected the type of sound I wanted and the higher quality video. Then I navigated to my NAS devices and entered their usernames and passwords and I was set to go.
I should mention that everything so far was done via the small remote control. The remote control is small, but powerful and you don't need to precisely aim it. Just point it in the general direction and you'll be good.
The size of this unit might surprise you. It's about 3.5 inches wide, 1.5 inches high, and 4 inches deep. Very small. I set it on my HDTV's stand behind the screen so only the remote eye was visible and things worked and looked great.
The big foolproof test. I handed the remote to my wife and asked her to play a movie on the NAS device. Without any experience or instructions she was able to find it in less than two minutes after only asking the name of the NAS device. She wasn't familiar with it. So, its very easy to operate and with it's nice remote very smooth.
The WD TV Live easily navigated to all the shared folders of every PC on my network, all my network storage devices, and it did it with no hassles or set up. It read the network and allowed me to navigate through it.
As you navigate through the contents of your storage device, and pause on a file, you'll get a video preview of that file in addition to its filename and other detailed information.
I had a collection of movies, specials, and music obtained over the years from AVI's to MPEG4's and much more. 10-12 video file types, 7-8 music file types, and lots of picture file types. Everything played fine with the exception of raw image files from my DSLRs. It's built in codecs accommodated more file types and played them better than my computer could ever hope to. And it did it quick and easily with no computer required.
I've plugged m DSLRs, USB hard drives, and thumb drives into the units USB port and was given instant access to the files on these devices. I'd guess this is the way most people will use it, only to access their storage drives.
Web Based Services
Using the remote I visited YouTube, Flickr, Pandora, Live365.com, and all these services were easy to access and enjoy. If you already had accounts with these sites you'll be prompted to enter your account information and then you're using these services easier than if from your computer.
The one feature missing from the WD TV Live Media Player was a wi-fi module. The list below shows the inexpensive USB wi-fi modules certified to use with this player.
I had one of these devices in a drawer so I hooked it up and there was no difference using the network between wi-fi and the LAN cable.
I've been using the Western Digital TV Live Media Player daily for over two months. My experience has been very positive and I've not found a file type that won't play.
This is the type of device you install and then forgot about. You'll never have to think about file types, if it works or not, or anything at all. You can even set up the firmware upgrade to let you know when a new upgrade becomes available.
If I have any complaint it would be that the remote keys are a bit sticky. I suspect if I clean the remote this won't be an issue any longer. Video quality is perfect and the sound is very good. I've watched many 1080p Blue-Ray movies using the WD TV Live while outputting the 7.1 DTS or Digital Dolby Pro to the home theater system. So far everything has operated perfectly.
I love this device, and more I love not having to connect or use a computer with my television ever again. My computers are now separate from the television. Its also a lot of fun to surf YouTube or Flickr with just the remote and the television.
Are you looking for this type of device? My guess is you'd be very pleased in every way with the Western Digital TV Live Media Player. I am..
Photography News of Interest *menu
Would you like to read a story about a young local lad from a 3rd world country who was hired by a photographer to run errands, who eventually was schooled in photography and became a skilled photographer in his own right, who met and associated with many iconic celebrities, and who was eventually left a good sized fortune in property and an art collection? A great story, read how a houseboy from Nepal makes it big in New York City. Meet Indra Tamang.
PMA 2011 will be held in September next year. Check out the PMA 2011 coverage here.
I've been spending a lot of time, not to mention money, to learn about time lapse photography as I prepare to add some awesome time lapse scenes to my website and to share in this column. Check out this time lapse footage covering the 6 weeks involved with a space shuttle launch, from preparation to launch. Awesome experience!
By this time next week I hope to hold in my hot little hands, the new Sony Alpha NEX-5. An extremely small mirrorless camera with a DSLR sized APC-S CMOS sensor with 14.1mp's. I've placed my order and its supposed to be delivered next Wednesday. For now check outthese sample images at DPreview.
Readers Submissions *menu
Here is an updated version of one of the HDR's that I sent to you. I was using my laptop and thought the colors were ok, but today I opened them up on my calibrated monitor and could see that the colors were oversaturated.
Lampang_House_Across_River_HDR_01a is the old one and Lampang_House_Across_River_HDR_01b is the new one. Do you think Lampang_House_Across_River_HDR_01b is OK?
These still seem to be a bit saturated to my taste, but I can see a definite improvement in your HDR's as you go along. I wonder how much of the saturation difference is related to how your monitor is profiled..
first let me say that I like your new website very much. It's easy to use and find things, I like the color scheme very much, easy on the eyes and lets you focus on the images.
Now I was reading an article about HDR photography using bracket exposure and have tried it a bit, I like it in one way has it's quick and you don't need a tripod (most of the time anyway).
The downside is that with my camera I can only take three photos, so the highlights have a tendency of being blown out, compared to if I was using say 8 photos to take the same shot.
But I think that this way of taking HRD has merits, but I would use it all the time.
Here are two examples of HDR photography using bracket exposure, I was using my Notebook so the colors could be a bit strong, but you will see the results from my attempts.
Thank you for your kind words about the new site. We hope for many visitors and we're doing our best to make it informative, fun, and interesting to visit.
Bracketing is limited in most cameras to 3 frames, especially Canon's. However, most of the newer Nikons allow 3, 5, 7, or 9 frame bracketing and this is an important improvement.
Thanks for your examples. I'm sure many readers will learn much from your examples.
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
I'm using Lightroom Beta 3..
Free until June 30th.. http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/
Does anyone know where I can find an 'add-on" that will allow me to put a picture frame around my images?
Check out my tutorial on adding watermarks to your images. The exact same add-on to Lightroom allows you to add inner and outer borders and more. Its cheap, it's easy, and a bit of a PIA to install.. but once installed it's super easy to use. I use it daily.
Check out the forum thread to see the rest of the responses to Dave.
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
An incredibly busy week. Since the political protests resulted in many of my clients canceling and leaving me with a lot of free time on my hands, we decided to make the most of this free time and order some new equipment, learn how to use the new equipment, and to improve our site.
As I write this we're in the process of upgrading to a private server which should increase performance significantly. The process should be transparent to our visitors and it should be completed by the time you read this. Give it a test drive.. ;o)
We're also field testing some really neat software from image programs to a new syncing program that uses the cloud to sync your Outlook mail files or any folder on your computer. This is very useful and I hope to finish up this review in time for the June 12th column.
Great News! We've added a"Thailand Photo Stories" section to our website in addition to our User Galleries. I'm pleased that Dana posted the very first story and I must say it's a good one. Check out Dana's first photo story and if you have any stories of your own, trip journals with pictures, anecdotes which include photography, a gear buying experience, a developing experience, anything at all related to photography.. please work up a submission and send it to me at: [email protected]
Ask the Professor! Our new Cultural Corner Do you have any questions that involve cultural issues and photography? Language questions, "how do I" "how should I?" "Cultural FooPah's?" A Stickman Green Star writer, JTG our resident Thai female professor, has generously agreed to answer any photography related questions concerning the Thai culture. I encourage you to take advantage of her unique perspective.
Infocus Blog, Thai Retail Business, 10 Tips For Success *menu
Recently I've been replacing a lot of equipment which means I'm out there with money in my hand doing my very best to spend it. You'd think this would be easy. But like most things in Thailand, something that should be intuitive and simple can become a major experience that leaves you shaking your head in frustration and asking yourself if Thai businesses really care about making money at all.
I'd really love to bash some local retailers and warn you guys away, and if I thought these were isolated incidents I would. But they're not. They're the way Thai's do business. So instead, I'm going to list ten main tips to follow for successful retail transactions.
1. If possible bring a printout of the exact item you want that includes model numbers, name, and a picture. The price too if possible.
2. If you ask the average clerk in a retail store for the item you need, if they don't know the item, they won't look and they won't ask. They'll look at you and lie and tell you they don't carry it. Don't believe them. Ask nicely to speak to their supervisor and ask again. Show them your printout.
3. When you feel a retail clerk is arguing with you, trying to tell you they don't have it, or behaving in any way contrary to you getting what you need DO NOT argue with them. Just ask to speak to their supervisor in a polite voice with a smile. When you do this they'll probably try to help you like they should have in the first place. Don't allow them to, continue to insist to deal with their supervisor. The next time someone comes in they just might do their job.
4. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount, and don't be afraid to ask for a supervisor if they tell you a discount isn't available. You'll be surprised how many discounts really are available.
5. When a retail clerk tells you it will fit, it will be in Tuesday, that it can be returned, when a retail clerk tells you any of this ask them to please write it down on paper and sign the paper. You'd be surprised just how careful a Thai clerk will be, and how helpful, when their name is written down and they know their performance can be traced.
6. As much as possible, BEFORE YOU PAY, physically view the item, even if you have to wait for it to be brought up from inventory or the stock room. Quite often they'll tell you they have something knowing they don't. They'll collect your money knowing it will force you into a tight spot so you wont' resist getting something 'close' to what you wanted. This is very common.
7. If a clerk tells you something will be available on a certain date, ask them to write it down and sign it. Usually they're making up the date to get you to move on. If you ask them to write it down and sign it, they'll actually lift up the phone and do their job.
8. You'll find, and I'm sure you know, that most Thai clerks know very little about the products they sell and have been given very little authority from their superiors. If anything out of the ordinary is requested they won't know what to do or how to handle it. It serves no one to argue or to continue dealing with them. Ask for their supervisors. Don't hesitate to ask for their supervisors supervisor. I've had several recent experiences where I didn't get proper service until I was dealing with the regional vice president. This is sad, very little trust or authority is given to low to mid-level employees. This is why you shouldn't hesitate to ask the VP for his personal mobile number and to use it if you must. I've had to do this several times this month with orders totaling in excess of 100,000 baht.
9. If you're dealing with a company that has a headquarters or office in another country, it doesn't hurt to contact that office if you're having issues with the Thai office. I've solved many issues this way.
10. If for any reason you don't think you're getting the product, service, warranty, or whatever it might be.. that you know you should be getting.. then talk to a supervisor, a VP, a regional office, or even offices in another country.