In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog August 21st, 2010

Ayothaya Floating Market/Pantip, Where I Shop

Thailand Hotel Guide
• Let's Sea Al Fresco Resort
• Majestic Beach Resort Hua Hin
• Mango Spa & Resort Hua Hin
• Marriott Hua Hin Resort & Spa

I have some unfortunate news to report on this project and total 100% transparency is how I feel this should be handled. My planned beneficiaries of this project, innocent very much in need children at a certain orphanage, have fallen victim to their local manager who we have found cannot currently be trusted and I doubt this is likely to change. Decisions need to be made if we're going to carry this project forward and if so who the new beneficiaries will be. I do expect this project to generate significant revenue so I take it very seriously. As you read this I'll be back in the Mae Sot area investigating further. I'll keep you informed. For now I'll still collect images with the intention of making the best most meaningful mosaics possible and as always, I'm asking for and will greatly appreciate your help with the images.

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 Ayothaya Floating Market Pantip Plaza, Where I Shop Photography News of Interest

Readers Submissions Readers Questions A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review Infocus Blog, Finishing The Job..T


Feature Photograph *menu

Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8 F5.6

I’ve been saving this image for a feature photograph special and didn’t include it in my shots from Wat Ratchaburana in Ayutthaya even though I did include a color rendition. This image is from the same outing but I wanted to save it because it requires some explanation.

Usually when you heavily process an image you get some who like it, but most don’t. When you first opened this column and viewed this image you immediately knew if the image captured you. This image might look heavily processed, but in reality it’s a simple black and white toning conversion with a touch of dodging and burning.

Seeing an image ‘in your mind’s eye’ is a skill unto itself, and perhaps the most difficult skill a photographer cultivates. Capturing and processing the image, that’s mostly a technical matter and far easier to accomplish. First you have to see it. In this instance seeing it was easy for me, the storm clouds were dark and foreboding, and I had a brand new 16mm F2.8 wide angle attached to my Sony NEX-5 (24mm at the 35mm equiv). I was curious if the corners were sharp, and what better test than a brick structure with the lines and detail running across the entire frame?

The person I went with was making his captures and my mind kept looking at this scene while we chatted back and forth. I held the NEX-5 at arm’s length and studied the scene in the viewfinder, took a few steps to one side, one step back, a few steps forward, and attempted to achieve the most centered and equal image I could. Most often a centered subject is the wrong choice, but in some cases where it works it can be very powerful.

I then moved the camera down to almost ground level, up above eye level, and watched the perspective. I finally settled for about waist level and made my capture. Using the LCD I zoomed into the corners to see if F5.6 would do the job. Because it was so dark, and I wanted to shoot at the cameras minimum ISO for the best quality, I needed all possible light. Frankly I was very surprised to see how well the corners held up at F5.6, I expected to go to F11 or even F16 for this type of corner sharpness. This is one of the advantages to using a quality prime over a more convenient zoom. F5.6 did a great job and I had my capture.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I remembered what I’d seen in my mind’s eye, and pulling the image up on the screen I was pleased. A minimum amount of dodging and burning, a black and white conversion, and an ever so slight rotation to make sure the chedji was pointing straight up. Keep in mind this is not a crop. I also didn’t need to correct for lens distortion. The walls on the side slightly leaning in, the walls really do that. Using a quality prime can really change your game and with some surprise I learned this inexpensive Sony 16mm F2.8 Alpha lens is indeed a quality prime.

Challenge yourself, especially with landscapes. Stop being in tourist mode and try just sitting there for 3-5 minutes and thinking about the scene. Picture in your mind’s eye what you want as a finished image. Once you have the image sitting in your mind, then use even more patience to set your controls to achieve your goal. You’ll probably find you’re capable of much better images this way.

Ayothaya Floating Market *menu

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 70mm ISO 100

I was debating which version of the spelling “Ayutthaya” (this spelling is accepted in the Microsoft Word Dictionary and at www.dictionary.com and several major dictionaries, but it certainly isn’t the only version) when I remembered this sign and thought if the Thais think it makes a great entry sign into their new floating market in Ayutthaya, then it’s good enough for my opening image and title for this feature!

Anyone who’s spent more than a few weeks inside the Kingdom has noticed any place, street name, building, city, province, anything at all.. can and most often is spelled at least several different ways. I’ve always attributed this to the difference in nationality of the person doing the initial naming. I wonder if there’s also some sort of sublime power struggle or pride going on over which spelling is used and when?

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F11 1/125th 12mm ISO 100

As you drive into the attraction there is a series of parking areas lining the perimeter and one of the first things you notice is most signs are in Thai only and it has the theme park attraction feeling of a Six-Flag’s attraction vs. an authentic traditional floating market. This huge ‘log’ made of concrete is a bit amusing, I wonder how many seasons before the paint fades and flakes off leaving it looking less like a log?

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/500th 17mm ISO 100

These images are in no particular order. The market is in no particular order. Stick and I were there for close to two hours and it was rare to see a customer in a sampan. At the Damneon Saduk Floating Market the market is set up so you can shop by boat, going from store to store, boat to boat, making your purchases and/or eating foods in a fun sort of way. Here, it’s more of a “boat ride” sort of thing and very few seemed to be riding the sampans. You ‘shop’ by walking along generously sized walkways.

A closer look reveals many of them are flooded and need to be pumped out each morning which is what this man is attending to in the image. I like this particular image just for its feel and perspective.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/200th 70mm ISO 100

Thai’s generally love to eat and this place caters to almost every taste. Rows upon rows of prepared foods line the walkways and restaurants are everywhere.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/200th 78mm ISO 100

The signs say it all, food, shopping, and shows. It also confirms their choice of the spelling “Ayothaya.” This is one of the few signs also in English.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 70mm ISO 100

Personally I love the feel of wood decks, seasoned planks, and who can resist a life preserver being available every 10 meters? I should have checked to see if they were nailed down and meant to be used as decorations, or if they were genuinely concerned for public safety. I would imagine this would impart a great feeling on a cool January day, but on this hot August morning the humidity was close to unbearable.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/500th 17mm ISO 100

This is last week’s soulless feature photograph. It was the only vessel I noticed with tourists during my entire stay there.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/640th 24mm ISO 100

Taken in “snapshots” this is a very scenic place. Each building appearing authentic in its own right with the appropriate sampans, baskets, walkways, all in place. As a snapshot it works, but turn a few degrees in either direction and the look changes. There is no congruity of authenticity, no feeling of old. It’s like you’re looking at a full size model, but not the real thing.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/500th 24mm ISO 100

Another nice ‘snapshot’, a lone sampan glides under a bridge, a fountain shoots water skywards, and beautiful landscaping sets the mood. Really, this would have been a very easy place to make first class travel brochures.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/400th 70mm ISO 100

Another beautiful scene, as if it were carefully drawn out on paper, a scale model made, and each piece of the model carefully built in place.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 70mm ISO 160

Everywhere you look there is ample seating for dining, coffee, or drinks.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 70mm ISO 1000

Entire walkways are dedicated to dining.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/640th 70mm ISO 100

Zoom in a bit and the parking lots become visible, the plastic figures loom in the lake, and the equally spaced trees and shrubs lend to the feeling of artificiality.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/125th 105mm ISO 1000

It was at about this point in our walkabout that I started to wonder if Stick was having the same feelings about the place I was. Not wanting to voice a premature opinion to skew our take on the place, we’d remained largely silent to this point and just concentrated on photography. However, once we started comparing notes we found we were using the same pad and pencil.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/80th 70mm ISO 1250

Not really a noteworthy image, but a typical view of the many places to eat. I sometimes wonder if my overall perspective on a location would change if I actually enjoyed Thai food? It’s true, I don’t care for most Thai food at all. I find the seasoning masks the real taste of the fresh produce and meats. Wait.. what am I talking about.. fresh produce and meats? Don’t be silly..

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/250th 70mm ISO 100

Another ‘snapshot’ extracted from the context of the whole. I was here for several purposes, an outing with a friend was first and foremost, checking out a new attraction second, and third I wanted to make some decent images. When you’re in such an environment you can choose to search out ‘slices’ or ‘snapshots’ of your surroundings and represent the ‘slice’ individually. This is done all the time in hotel and travel brochures. Especially in Thailand and SEA, you’ve probably experienced the feeling that the actual hotel or attraction looks and feels nothing like the brochure or web slice?

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/80th 70mm ISO 640

One of the most annoying trends in Thai society, is the isolation which inadvertently takes place as people interact with their cell phones while almost looking straight through you. This man looked through me like I was the invisible man, his attention focused only on his phone call. Can you tell by his eyes? Btw, I 100% a ban on all phone usage while driving.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/80th 70mm ISO 250

In a dark alcove a merchant tends to his sampan, half full of flowers and the plastic fat lady (I’m almost certain this is a fat red headed white lady which I find amusing to say the least), and half full of the drink he sells. Flowers adorn every available centimeter of his sampan.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/100th 120mm ISO 100

I was watching this lady as she put the prices on some items and how her face would change with each item, me thinks registering her emotion to each piece of merchandise. This particular expression was amusing, obviously she was a bit perturbed by what she was seeing.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/125th 140mm ISO 100

Massage, aroma therapy, reflexology, and the standard fare of the massage parlor was a huge theme at the Ayothaya Floating Market. I noticed the prices for the places with air conditioning were roughly twice the price as the open air establishments.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 78mm ISO 640

This young lady was completing her coursework while tending to the families shop. You could tell it was a family shop because the older mother was in the background and you couldn’t mistake the resemblance.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/160th 70mm ISO 250

I had to dodge and burn quite a bit throughout this series. I hear you asking, “I’ve heard the term dodge&burn before, but what exactly does it mean?” Dodging&burning refers to manipulating the exposure of select parts of an image. Dodging decreases the exposure (makes it darker), while burning increases the exposure (makes it lighter). Done properly dodging and burning can really enhance an image. It’s also technically a very easy skill to learn in Photoshop or Lightroom, but artistically a most difficult skill to master. People often ask why my images have a more “3D” look, or after shooting together at the same location why their images don’t look anywhere near the same. It’s in the post-processing and often due to a large degree to dodging and burning.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 145mm ISO 160

Here a family stops at a shop to examine something which interests them. It struck me as unusual the small boy would also be interested.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/60th 120mm ISO 320

This young child reminded me of all the times my parents would drill into me “chew with your mouth closed”, often finding the most unpleasant ways to remind me. Chewing with your mouth open, loud belches, and other western manners aren’t part of the average Thai’s upbringing, though you’ll find the adherence to western manners a good indicator of a young person’s social standing and upbringing.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/125th 120mm ISO 320

This man was patiently preparing food for his kiosk.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/125th 148mm ISO 1600

I couldn’t figure out if this man had just enjoyed a nice cup of coffee, or if he was serving the coffee. Many of the storefronts were empty without a customer in sight.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/80th 24mm ISO 100

Stopping to rest on a staircase I immediately went into observation mode and noticed this was a fascinating place to enjoy lunch, watch the sampans disembark, and enjoy a cool breeze. Unfortunately the scene took considerable dodging and burning to pull it off. The original shows only dark shadows under the ceiling, and blown out highlights outside. Careful and patient post-processing reveals a decent image. This was possible because I shot at ISO 100, if at ISO 1600 for instance I wouldn’t have had nearly as much headroom to effect my changes.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/400th 22mm ISO 100

I was thankful for the darkened skies on this day. I always smile when a fellow photographer frets over the lack of sunshine as I greatly prefer the softer more controlled light as it filters through the clouds.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/250th 24mm ISO 100

A typical open air massage place. It looks very relaxing doesn’t it? If there was a way to capture the nearly 70-80% humidity levels you might find the scene less than relaxing. More like sticky and wet. Again, a fair amount of dodging and burning went into the post processing of this image.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/400th 22mm ISO 100

Very typical, walkways and cross bridges and decks interconnect the entire place.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/320th 24mm ISO 100

Wherever you find an attraction you’ll find young Thai school girls having a great time posing for their camera phones before forwarding the image to friends elsewhere. Watching them I was thinking how technology has greatly changed the social landscape. If they were using a new smart phone they could have not only forwarded their friends the image, but updated their Hi-5 and Facebook at the same time. Btw – Notice how the girls seem to loom right to the front of the image? This is what a wide 24mm will do, it puts you IN the scene front and center.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/1000th 12mm ISO 100

A greater view of the most open area I could find.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F11 1/60th 24mm ISO 100

Everywhere you looked you’d see workmen finishing up stores and walkways, front loaders digging, electricians running power cables, and the finishing touches being put on this project.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F11 1/320th 15mm ISO 100

A long view of a klong that runs along the perimeter.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F11 1/125th 24mm ISO 100

Elephant rides are part of the attraction and frankly it saddens me to see this. A look at the “elephant park” confirmed my fears. There really isn’t the space nor facilities for the elephants to be properly rested and maintained.

Overall I enjoyed the few hours I spent at the new Ayothaya Floating Market. I doubt it’s a place I will return to for personal pleasure, but perhaps I will for specific workshops as it offers many good opportunities to learn and test skills.

Pantip, Where I Shop *menu

“What’s a good store to shop at in Pantip Plaza?” I get this question all the time. To be honest I have my ‘current’ favorite but I don’t hesitate to vote with my feet if I don’t get the customer service and honesty I expect. Today it could be one store, and a few months from now another. However, I build a lot of systems just not for myself, but for clients, and this gives me a chance to get out and see what’s in stock, what kind of prices we can expect, and see how the customer is treated. Especially regarding returns or exchanges.

Pantip Plaza is a huge mall. I liken it to hell. It’s crowded, it smells terrible, it’s extremely noisy, and you can’t trust anyone. Or can you? We’ll get to that question soon.

Pantip Plaza is one of the places in Bangkok which surprises me when you consider the amount of money people spend there, vs. the quality of the shopping experience. I suppose in that regard it’s much like Nana Plaza. The sewer system of computer shopping. Millions of baht are being taken in each day, yet its physically one of the worst malls around. It’s also poorly managed and in a terrible location which is guaranteed to eat up a large part of your day just getting there. When will someone get smart and build a modern high-end electronics mall featuring everything from computer products to televisions and home theater equipment?

See this guy? He’s one of the guards who will try and tell you you’re not allowed to take pictures inside Pantip Plaza. Why in the world would anyone not want you to take pictures unless they agree with my above paragraph and they don’t want the world knowing? He followed me up several floors telling me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. Each time I smiled knowingly and finally I snapped his picture and I think he gave up and left me alone. Legal rights mean little in Thailand if they think they can intimidate you with low-rent security guards. Everyone is trained from the time they’re a child that “authoritah” is king and you must assimilate without question or thought. It drives them crazy if you dare ask “what authority do you have to ask me not to take pictures?” I’ve got this wild idea for a “Photograph Pantip Plaza Day” where we get thousands to show up with cameras just to take pictures of the security guards.

Ok, so we’ve established you’re in a low-rent mall with the poorest shopping experience for the modern consumer known to mankind, you’re being dogged by shady looking guys shoving porn in your wife’s face, and security isn’t bothering them.. they’re bothering you because you’re taking pictures. What’s really going on here? How does it work? It’s not unlike any other criminal enterprise where they have a total monopoly and unquestioned authority.

There are very few truly independent shops, and they’re the big and obvious ones like IT City, A&W Root Beer, and not much else. Most are owned and ghost ran by less than a handful of people. Can you say PRICE FIXING? Any deviation from the standard prices are small amounts of 50-200 baht or so that comes off the top of the margin the store manager rakes in based on sales volume. They all have the same prices, have the same policies on returns/exchanges, and use the same service exchange centers.

By now it should be obvious any honesty or service you’re going to get will be 100% up to the store manager and his personal business philosophy. But don’t get me wrong, none of these guys suffers fools easily and you’re going to have to appear at least somewhat competent to get any respect or service at all. Walk in there knowing little about what you want or need, and you’ll be sold whatever they’re making the most money on that day more quickly than a good used car salesman gets rid of flood damaged cars.

Do your due diligence. Use the internet, read reviews, and write down exactly what you want/need, and don’t let anyone talk you into anything else unless you’ve had the opportunity to research it online first. I’m serious about this, I often ask a vendor to use their PC and internet to read reviews on a product they’re trying to push. If they’re honest and confident of their product they’ll allow you to do this.

And one more tiny bit of news. They’re just not selling counterfeit software at Pantip. Now you need to be very aware and very concerned about counterfeit HARDWARE knock offs as well. Seriously. Pantip was raided last week not for software, but for hardware. I very nearly was cheated out of a high-end video card to the tune of 24,900 baht! I suppose this answers my question, why create a nice shopping experience in a modern environment conducive to high technology sales.. with modern business policies and product verification.. when you can make more money ripping off the customer base comprised of a high percentage of westerners? If “BUYER BEWARE” ever was important, then it’s critical at Pantip Plaza.

This is the shop I currently do business with. It’s on the 3rd floor and I’m showing a picture of the place so you can make sure you have the right place. The man who manages this shop gives the best customer service experience I’ve ever experienced in Pantip Plaza. So far he’s kept his word 100% of the time. He’s honored exchanges, and he’s even sent motorsai riders out with new (expensive) parts based only on my phone call request. This saves a lot of time. I call him and say “the video card you sold me last week no longer works, can you send me out a new one” and he asks “is your address still the same?”

This pano makes it look like the shop is on a corner, but that’s just perspective distortion created when taking a pano in a very narrow passageway. This is one long straight passageway and these are the stores next door to him.

This might be the only honest guy with a sense of western customer service concepts in the entire Plaza. Please don’t try to bargain him down. He won’t be able to bargain more than 50-100 baht on each item and you’ll only annoy him. He’s not going to cheat you and he’ll give you the going price.

A few weeks ago a client and I walked in his store armed with a foot long shopping list to build a nice imaging workstation. Just the box not including monitors came to over baht 100,000. It was a high end building using the best components including a SSD, dual video cards, and WD Black storage drives. This man looked at the list, told us he’d put everything together, and then immediately dispatched his workers to fetch the parts he didn’t personally have in stock.

Eventually all the parts are laid out on the counter where we can inspect them, make sure they’re what we asked for, etc. Once everything is assembled in one place, inspected, and prices agreed upon, he’ll write up the invoice and then send his guys to load it in your car. A nice experience, much better than going from store to store looking for this part or that part.

He takes cash (baht and dollars), credit cards, debit cards, whatever spends. If he doesn’t carry the part you asked for, and it’s available somewhere in the Plaza, his guys will go get it and you’re in effect buying it from him and he then assumes responsibility for warranty adjustments. The value of this service cannot be overstated.

Back at my place the client laid out his boxes. We weren’t done yet. We’d just spend 2-3 hours driving to and then shopping at Pantip Plaza, fighting traffic, etc.. now we were going to spend the next 3-4 hours carefully assembling and then testing his system. He’d never done it before, so this time he was going to watch and help. His first task was laying out the boxes.

His second task was opening the boxes and laying out the parts keeping the various bits and bobs together with the part. Keeping track of things can be a challenge.

First, we place the power supply in the case and secure it. We make sure the power connectors match the parts we’re going to install. Btw – The power supply is a very important component and we took care to get a very nice one that was “80 Plus Silver” certified. Check out the 80 Plus website here, they’re a lot like Underwriters Labs but for power supplies.

Totally independent.

This is the 1366 socket we’ll soon be plugging our new Intel i7-930 CPU into I use a light to ensure all the pins are 100% clean and perfect.

Here the CPU is installed and ready to mount the external cooler. The blue and white slots to the left are your memory slots, and the mostly blue slots arranged horizontally are your PCIe video card slots.

This is the bottom of the Thermaltake Extreme 120 CPU cooler. It’s the best of the current crop of over 300 different coolers. I know this because I read tons of reviews on this stuff so you don’t have to. We’ve applied a high-end thermal compound called “Artic Silver” which transfers heat better than anything else out there. Your CPU can run a difference of 10c just based on the quality of the heat sink compound alone. Faulty installation can mean a 20-50c difference as you head into thermal shutdown. This part must be done correctly.

Here is our Gigabyte x58-UD7 motherboard with the optional northbridge cooler attached, the Thermaltake CPU cooler/fan attached, and 12gb of the fastest DDR3 2000 memory available, Kingston Hyper-X. At this point we carefully inspect every detail before mounting it in the case.

Once mounted in the case we run all the cables from the power supply, the front panel switch wires, mount the drives, mount the video cards, and then test the system.

The point of this article really wasn’t to show you how to build a system, but more where to go to get the pieces to build your system. My client was snapping images as we went along so I thought it would be fun to include them and you could get a feel for what’s involved. No, I don’t build computer systems for a living, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself and you need a high-end imaging workstation (which is what I specialize in), then shoot me an email and we’ll talk.

I hope I’ve provided you with some insight into how Pantip Plaza operates and what to expect during your visit. It’s reassuring to know there really are some honest and helpful dealers, and even better to know exactly where to find them. I hope you’ll find these helpful.

I was going to list the exact parts used for the build similar to the way I did my i7-920 build here. But the reality of the high-tech computer world is that by the time you decide to build your own the latest and greatest list from today, won’t be the same for tomorrow. New and in many cases less expensive products are coming out all the time and if you don’t carefully follow the industry it’s impossible to know what the best specs and prices should be at any one point in time. If you’re serious about building such a system and need help, email me. I’ll be glad to help. If you need someone to put it together and test it and do it right.. email me. It’s a job I might have time to take depending on my current obligations and how fast you need it.

You might ask what’s it like using such a system compared to say.. a decent laptop. I know, I know.. there are many out there swearing they’ll never use anything other than a laptop and I respect that. It’s reassuring to buy the entire system already spec’d out and put together for you.. and to get it in a single box. Not to mention it’s small and portable. But what’s it like?

I’m a car guy, so I’ll liken the best laptop, currently a Lenovo or Dell Precision, to a BMW 3 series. Nice, somewhat powerful, dependable, and not a bad price. The kind of workstation I’m talking about in this feature, a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Yes, that’s currently the fastest production car that just set a record of 268mph and yes there is that much difference. When you process hundreds of images every week, render video, or stack for time lapse.. then you need this kind of power. The best part, you won’t be getting a ticket with this one.. ;o)

Photography News of Interest *menu

Anything to make money! Now we have a Porn Stick which is essentially a USB dongle you put in any computers USB port and using self-contained software it then scans your system, including deleted files, and looks for a pattern of flesh and skin tons.. which then recommends to the user what files have a high probability of being porn. I have many issues with this technology. First, real people have a hard enough time agreeing on what constitutes pornography much less a computer program. Second, it’s potential for misuse by customs authorities, especially in corrupt countries (any come to mind?), is huge. Third, as photographers, nudes are often a mainstay of our profession as is client privacy. Having some poorly educated and poorer trained government snoop ogling the images entrusted to me by my clients is a total invasion of privacy just not for me, but obviously for my clients. I travel encrypted and I would advise you do too!

Sony announces a 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 variable aperture zoom lens for it’s NEX Alpha Series cameras. Personally I feel these zoom lenses while of a decent quality, are too large for the NEX series cameras and defeat its purpose. I think Sony would do much better by releasing some high quality prime lenses such as a pancake 20mm, a 50mm Macro, and a 60mm portrait lens. These would equate to a 35mm pancake, a 75mm Macro, and a 90mm portrait lens. Now, make them as fast as possible, a decent price, and watch every pro out there buy them up for their “off-duty” camera.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere you’re in for a great light show in the form of the Perseid Meteor Shower in your evening sky. This event is already visible and will peak this Saturday night right after this column goes live! So if you’re reading this and it’s still Saturday night, and you live in the Northern Hemisphere, head away from the city lights and see if you can catch some images. If you do, please send them in!

It’s interesting to read that Yahoo’s Finance section is predicting point and shoot cameras as one of the six high-tech gadgets soon to be obsolete. Why? Because smart phone cameras are getting that much better all the time and may soon become good enough to render the point and shoot obsolete for the average user. Makes sense to you? I’ve already seen some great images online from smart phones so perhaps..

Nikon users can now download the ViewNX 2 software upgrade. Read more about it here.

Adobe releases, free of charge, an IPhone ap called “Adobe Photoshop Express” which is basically an IPhone utility for image processing. You can download it here. There is also an Android version but I don’t think I’ll be downloading it formy new HTC Desire because I just don’t know why I’d want to edit images on my phone.. How about you?

Fuji announces the release of its second 3D point and shoot. With the advent of 3D HDTV’s being the “must have” feature touted with this years television model lineup you can expect more of these. Heck, even my Sony NEX-5 has a 3d Sweep Panoramic mode. It’s a new era!

Not to be outdone, Nikon releases their second ‘projector’ point and shoot that not only has a LCD, but can also project the image on a nearby wall, notebook, sheet of paper, or perhaps even your tee-shirt. Lots of new tech heading your way!

Readers Submissions *menu

Hi

This was two weeks ago at Big Bear Mountain.

About a two hour ride from Long Beach -108 miles – 7000 feet up.

It is a ski area in the winter – fishing in the summer.

Very nice day – the Sons of Anarchy were there.

Hundreds and hundreds waited hours to get a free photo with them.

They claim 5,500 people showed up – it looked like it !!

I made the pics small as there were so many – wanted to keep the file manageable.

Bart

Bart –

I always wondered if the SOA guys rode for real. Thanks for answering that question!

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

Steve,.

I read in some places middle range zooms are useless. That professionals don’t use them. How can this be? They seem the most useful to me.

Bob K.

Bob –

Whether or not a mid-range zoom is useless or not depends on your needs. They are in fact the most used lens sold. Many professionals, wedding photographers, event photographers, studio photographers, and many others use them as their primary lens. I wrote more about this topic here and it’s worth reading the piece.

Try to put what you read into context. If someone is saying a mid-range zoom is useless, or they’re better served by another lens, then look at what type of photography they do. This mindset is common amongst dedicated landscape photographers and to a point I understand their view.

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 *menu

This week we had one workshop, an adventure with my printer, a visit to Pantip, computer repairs and upgrades, and we’ve continued to review and test many new pieces of equipment. Did you do your record 14 Microsoft updates this week? We did, on six computers!

The “What’s New” area of our site continues to grow in popularity. We try to update it 4-5 times a week with the latest information and sneak peeks of our latest images. Check it out to keep track of Bangkok Images exploits and commentary throughout the week.

Still a ton of hardware and software reviews being formed, and admittedly I’ve been taking my time with some of this gear. Some like our new monitors is just too important to rush. Before someone takes my recommendation to purchase a baht 50,000 monitor I’ll be making sure it’s a very solid recommendation. The same with some of the other gear we have in the pipeline. Please be patient, we have a lot coming and only so much space in the column each week to post it.

Infocus Blog, Finishing The Job *menu

I was brutally reminded this week exactly how much my skills have slipped. Before my final move to the Kingdom I was running my own studio in Oregon and primarily I did family portraits, senior portraits, weddings, eventually specializing in boudoir photography of a very private nature. Because I wanted to control the quality of my work I printed 95% of my orders. The other 5% went out to specialized print houses with more hardware capability.

An entire room was dedicated to printing. I had four printers of the same type, each set up and optimized for a different type of print, roll canvas, luster (semi-gloss), glossy, and black and white. I had a fifth “art” printer set up for printing on velvet, matte, and other art papers. A color laser handled brochures and business work. Shelves were stacked with thousands of dollars worth of specialized papers and inks, each carefully stacked to avoid turned edges, humidity damage, and for easy access. As an example, a single roll of canvas could run as high as $500. Art papers could easily run $20 a sheet. You really want to minimize mistakes.

When I moved to Thailand I was well aware of all the inexpensive printing services so I packed up a single printer and a short selection of my favorite papers and a supply of ink and sold the rest. For over five years these items remained in my office collecting dust. To say I was relieved no longer being chained to the print room would be an understatement. Printing properly takes as much skill and knowledge as any other part of photography. In fact, you could accurately say that when making your capture, how you’re going to print the image defines your capture as much as how you’re going to process the image.

In other words, when making the capture, you need to carefully consider your post processing capabilities and your plans for printing to make the most effective capture. This means you might change different settings for the capture when taking into account how you will post-process the image, and how you will print it. These are small but significant differences.

A few months back I had these nice frames mounted throughout my place with the main theme being that the image would be easy to change. I love nothing better than to have a great photo outing, and then mount the images on the wall. The next outing, another set of images. It’s fun and it puts a tangible result right in front of you. I sincerely believe that if you’re spending time looking at 24×30 inch prints of your work, then you’ll think a lot more about what you’re shooting, spend more time processing, and greatly improve your photography. Of course, if you’re goals end at sharing your image on the web via email then the “print” part won’t matter to you. Still, there is no greater satisfaction to photography than seeing your image properly printed and mounted and hanging on a wall or in a gallery somewhere.

Imagine my disappointment when I learned most of the print houses in Bangkok are using large commercial laser printers! And the prints while of uniform quality, where nothing like what I used to turn out for my customers. I’m currently looking for a competent chemical printer, if you know one please let me know.

A few weeks ago I did a special shoot for a couple who are friends. It was her first pregnancy and they wanted the standard remembrances to remember the pregnancy by and perhaps to share with family. We did the shoot, yet in the back of my mind I started thinking about the prints. They wanted files to print locally and that’s great, but the difference in quality between what I knew they’d get locally, and what I used to do myself, well.. it was a big difference. And being friends with a special occasion I wanted them to have at least one print done properly. I let them pick their prints and then I had them printed as requested at a local print house. They were okay.

Then I selected an image I particularly liked, processed it with a special kind of print process, a certain kind of ink, and a certain process in mind. When the image was properly processed I dug in the far corner of my office and uncovered the printer. It sat on a roll-around cart (it’s a large printer) and the shelves of the cart held a selection of inks and papers. Quickly searching through the papers I found what I was looking for, a delicate and quite special art velvet. It’s the type of paper you don’t need to mount behind glass, instead you can spray lacquer it.

Pushing the cart out to my workstation I commenced a two day process of cleaning, flushing, adjusting, and basically overhauling a printer that hadn’t been used in over 5 years. This printer is over 10 years old. So were the papers, but they were properly stored in special boxes so they were like new.

The next part of the process was building a printer color profile to match my current monitors. This is almost an art by itself. By the time this was done I’d run out of a certain color ink so I was off to several print houses looking for the EXACT ink I needed. A substitute would not do at all, when done right with the proper inks my prints last in excess of 150 years. Bargain Thai ink will not. I was surprised to find what I needed in a reasonable amount of time.

Rushing home I installed the new ink cartridge, flushed it’s line, made a test print, and finally sat there for over 45 minutes as my printer slowly turned out a single print. I wasn’t making just any print, I was making a gallery quality print I’d be proud to hang in any gallery or at any show. When it was done I let it dry before checking it carefully with a loupe. I was surprised and delighted to see I’d got it right on the first run. Now, all that’s left is to get it properly mounted.

It felt good to make this print, not only because it exercised very rusty skills, but because I was making the print for friends. Comparing this print, even with a 10+ year old printer, to the best print in my home from the Bangkok print houses, it wasn’t hard to see there was really no comparison at all.

This begs the question, should I start making my own prints again? The answer is no. In America with customers willing to pay for quality it was an easy decision. Here, quality is almost a dirty word when you compare it to the word “baht.” The printers, inks, papers, are all 2-3 times the price of the US. And then I’d need a dedicated dust free room with a special table, mounting equipment, special lights with the right temps, a viewing booth, and much more. I’d love to have the great quality available, more I’d love to see my prints printed to this quality mounted in my new frames. But it’s just not economically feasible. And really, would anyone notice?

Until next time..