In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog November 6th, 2010

Chinese Village, Pai/Garmin 3790t GPS, A Review

Thailand Hotel Guide
• Centara Karon Resort
• Centara Villas Hotel Phuket
• Diamond Cottage Resort & Spa
• Front Village Resort

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]


Quick Click Links

Feature Photograph Chinese Village, Pai Garmin Nuvi 3790t, A Review Photography News of Interest

Readers Submissions Readers Questions A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review Infocus Blog, Do You Love Your Ears?T


Feature Photograph *menu

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/320th ISO 160

Last week’s call for Readers Submissions definitely brought on submissions, but surprisingly it was the single image of the pelican which garnered the most comments. The overwhelming theme of the comments centered around the clarity and focus of the image, and questions like “Can I get this level of image quality and clarity from my gear?” The answer is yes. And I’ll back up that yes with an example. Another claim “come on Steve, you were using $10,000 worth of lens and camera, anyone can do this with that type of gear!” Really? Let’s talk about that a bit.

This image is significant because it sets a bar. A bar anyone can shoot for with any level of equipment. One of my responses to this comment “Steve, I’m frustrated. I have a new NEX-5 and I can’t get this level of quality” went like this: “You can’t bring home a new Steinway grand piano and expect to play like Ray Charles just because you now have the piano. You need to be willing to put in the practice, learn the techniques, and then start making music. Conversely, Ray Charles could probably make even the worst piano sound great.”

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/320th ISO 160

Cameras have really improved over the years and taken a lot of the mystery out of photography, allowing someone to produce really nice photographs right out of the box. Still, if you want to surpass that “out of the box” level of quality you’ll need to learn some techniques and put in the time to practice. I recommend reading my Special Edition on Critical Focus if you’re interested.

Let’s get back to the comment that it’s all about the expensive equipment. There is no doubt that at a certain level equipment elevates image quality. However, I think you’d be surprised with how far off that level really is and how great your images can be with your simple point and shoot compact if you just employ a bit of technique and take a bit of time to practice. Prove it you say? Okay.

Olympus E-10 @F2.4 36mm ISO 80

The above image was captured in 2001 with a 4mp point and shoot. It had a small sensor, probably smaller than most modern compacts, a very limited range zoom, and technically is probably greatly inferior to any 2010 manufacture point and shoot compact. No Photoshop involved either. This is out of the camera. Here we have the same great level of detail and focus, and even a nicely defocused background, from a $500 camera (digital cameras were much more expensive in 2001) that we see with the $10,000 camera setup. How did that happen?

It wasn’t an accident. I had the right lighting, a fairly steady subject (that was a pun), a manual mode on the camera allowing me to choose my settings to best suit not only the subject, but to also get the most from the camera, and I’d put in my time practicing. Sure, the gear helps, but you can achieve really great images with really simple and inexpensive cameras.

I’ve been cleaning my great grandmothers $1 Baby Brownie. I’ll see if I can find some film for it and blow you away with the results. I can tell you this in advance: the resulting negative will have greater resolution and better image quality than ANY digital camera made today. A dollar went a long way back in the 1930’s.. ;o)

Chinese Village, Pai *menu

This is the fifth part of my series in Mae Hong Son. It started with The Road To Pai , continued with Pai, About and Around Town , moved on to Lisou Village, Mae Hong Son”, with part four Mae Hong Son Landscapes, And A Mid-Range Zoom published just last week. This week we’ll be visiting the Chinese Village which is located adjacent to the Lisou Village.

Once again, I wasn’t really interested in the tourist areas. I wanted to spend time in the actual Chinese Village Neighborhood and see what I could concerning how they live. By now you’ve probably picked up that I was really taken with Mae Hong Son and you would be right. In fact, I’ll be up there for an extended stay starting at about the time you’re reading this column.

Follow along as I share some images and I’ll do my best to narrate each one.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/80th 38mm ISO 100

This is the first thing you’ll see as you drive in the Chinese Village. Obviously for the benefit of tourists the sign and dragon statues with red are easily recognizable as Chinese. This is a “park like” area, and was relatively empty all three days I visited.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/125th 125mm ISO 400

I saw this kid from my car and guessed he’d soon be hiding behind the umbrella which was already there on the ground. I was on the wrong side of the car to get the picture so I hurriedly pushed my camera over to Eyal and said “get the picture get the picture” to which he replied “where’s the go button?” He ended up getting a few pictures though and this one was especially nice.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/250th 51mm ISO 100

As you approach the fork in the road leading into the area you can either go right into the Lisou Village, or left into the Chinese Village. Do you see the sign for the Chinese Village? It’s severely faded and easy to miss.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/250th 24mm ISO 100

Stepping back from the fork in the road you can see the paved road goes to the Chinese Village, while the dirt road goes to the more poor Lisou Village.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/60th 70mm ISO 160

This village has something the Lisou Village didn’t. Men. Men of working age were everywhere in direct contrast to the Lisou Village where I saw only one male of working age. This group of men were sitting around drinking tea and seemed very friendly.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/100th 100mm ISO 800

This is a small outdoor shop in the tourist area of the Chinese Village. This lady just wouldn’t smile to save her life so I ended up doing my comedy routine and she finally cracked a smile. Eyal commented “people seeing your pictures have no idea of the interaction..”

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/25th 24mm ISO 100

Stepping away from the shop you can see there’s not a lot to it.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/125th 120mm ISO 800

Here, you see a father of working age with his daughter who’s school age, quite different from the Lisou Village. They were quietly working on their leaves and didn’t look up for longer than a quick second, totally ignoring us as their life went on.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/200th 70mm ISO 100

From a vantage point high atop the Chinese Village you can look down at the tourist areas of both the Chinese and Lisou villages. What a beautiful valley!

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/200th 200mm ISO 200

Using a longer focal length we now zoom in directly to the Chinese Village. See the two gold colored dragon statues to the left? These are the same ones from the picture above.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/80th 70mm ISO 200

As you drive through the villages they’re often outdoors on the porches taking care of children and performing domestic chores. I had the feeling there was a great amount of family cohesiveness among these people.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/80th 24mm ISO 100

In the tourist area these traditional appearing huts are set up to serve food and drinks. A rather boring shot, but the clouds and sky were nice anywhere you pointed the camera.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/40th 28mm ISO 100

This is a shop for the locals inside their neighborhood, quite different from the tourist area. As in the Lisou Village you can see the walls and structures are largely build from locally available ‘found’ materials.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/125th 150mm ISO 200

One thing you can count on, no matter where you go almost anywhere in the world, you’ll find these old Singer sewing machines helping menders create and repair clothing. These are very simple and basic machines, far different than the computerized sewing machines you see today. Heck, I have my grandmothers sewing machine here in Bangkok with me, in the same sort of table, and even though she bought it about 40 years ago it looks positively space age compared to this old style you see everywhere.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/200th 100mm ISO 100

How many places in the world have a used Ox Cart lot? Seriously, these carts are specially made to be towed by beasts and they seem quite well built.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/800th 70mm ISO 100

Obviously the stacked roof is traditional Chinese and the adjoining house makes up the entire used Ox Cart lot and management offices.. J

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/160th 90mm ISO 100

A typical home. When we returned to Bangkok over five years ago we bought a washer and a drying rack. We quickly learned that clothes set out to dry long enough in the Bangkok pollution resulted in a peculiar and unpleasant smell. So we bought a dryer. Here, with the clean fresh air I’ll bet their clothes smell like a slice of heaven.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/320th 70mm ISO 100

As you can picture, the villages are built into the side of hills and the further you go into the village the higher you climb. The concrete roads were in direct contrast to the dirt and gravel roads in the Lisou Village next door. Class structure, as destructive to society as it is, is alive and well even in the most rural areas of Thailand.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/125th 73mm ISO 100

I liked this home. How often do you see a real garage in Thailand? This is a two car garage and in the one with the door open the car inside is even covered! The red brick construction must have been very expensive compared to the other homes in the village.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/100th 100mm ISO 800

Two teenage girls at a local eatery which was nothing more than bare concrete walls and plastic chairs. The motorbike is significant in this frame, it belonged to the girls. Motorbikes were everywhere in the Chinese Village, an apparent sign of wealth, while in short supply next door in the Lisou Village.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM @F8 1/200th 70mm ISO 100

It has been said that the best things in life are free, unless it’s a house with a great view. Here, even the poorest live in houses providing spectacular views of the valley floor and neighboring mountains.

These villages hold a lot of interest for me and I’ll be delving into them much deeper during this next trip. To properly learn about these villages and meet the people, you normally need to spend at least several days in the area building the comfort and trust levels.

It was obvious the Chinese Village was much richer than the Lisou Village, but was still poor compared to a standard Thai village. Most homes here had electricity, were built much more solidly of more expensive materials, there were more motorbikes, more cars, nicer clothes, better food, and other signs of more wealth. Why would two villages geographically identical, with access to the same natural resources, farm land, and so forth.. why would one be more rich than the other? In interesting question, we could guess at the answers, but hopefully I’ll get to see for myself.

Garmin 3790t GPS, A Review *menu


Introduction. Meet Emily

I couldn’t live without her. At least if I want to drive in Thailand. She always has time for me, remembers where things are, tells me when to turn and when I’ll be getting on the Expressway, and if I stick her in a box for a long time she never complains. So far it’s been the perfect relationship! She’s never let me down and in return I take good care of her. Heck, I even respect her intelligence and quick analytical mind.

Her name is Emily, and she’s been my Mai Noi for five years now. Well, that’s what my wife calls her. In reality she’s began life as a Nuvi 350, and then I traded her in for a younger model the Nuvi 885t reviewed here. She aged and a new model came out with an awesome display and she’s much more slender, so I once again traded her in for the new Nuvi 3790t. New Emily! An indispensible member of my family!

Without a doubt a quality GPS quickly becomes your best friend when trying to navigate the streets of Bangkok, and as technology moves forward GPS devices become more useful and more user friendly. The new Nuvi 3790t sits way ahead of any other GPS on the market. Keep reading to find out why.

Installation

The mount is a mixture of the best of the features from the past, and some new features. It comes with a windshield suction cup base and an adhesive mount disc if you want to mount it on the dash. These things are pretty much the same as before.

The power adapter plugs into the side of the mount via a mini-USB plug. This feature was on the top models of the past, and then for some crazy reason Garmin discontinued it. For a long time most of the Nuvi models required you plugging the power cable directly into the GPS itself, which requires a lot of plugging and unplugging if you remove the GPS and put it out of sight when you leave the car. And you should. When the power cord plugs into the side of the mount then you can leave it there, and simply clicking the GPS in/out of the mount also adds/removes power. I’m very pleased to see this feature make a comeback on the new 3700 series Nuvi.

Also, while the 3790t has a small speaker built in, it also has a much bigger and more powerful (read more loud) speaker now built into the mount itself. If you have trouble hearing your current GPS, you’ll love this feature. I used to keep my Nuvi 350 and 885t at approximately 60% volume, now it’s at 20% and it has more volume than before!

The power cord has the traffic receiver built into the cord in a rather awkward spot, about 8-9 inches from where the mini-USB plug. I’m sure they put it there to make sure it was high enough to receive well by being in line with the windows, but it’s a bit bulky and moves around a bit. I solved this issue with a small square of 3M double sided tape.

Features

Look

The first thing you notice about the 3790t is how thin it is. When powered down the screen is all black, has no buttons, and closely resembles an IPhone. It’s actually more thin than an IPhone, right between and IPhone and an Itouch. The second thing you notice is the black glass display has the same resolution as an IPhone and apparently has identical quality in every way. It’s more than an upgraded display, it’s an entirely new display unlike any other GPS out there. Even at an angle you can clearly see the screen which is helpful for your passenger if they’re following along.

The new display is also “multi-touch” which means it has all the touch features it had in the past, but also works much like an IPhone does when using other functions.

3-D Building View

This is a really cool feature, but I’m afraid it’s not part of any Thailand map set. Yet. As you drive down a street or highway, the buildings you’re passing are shown in 3D. This can be helpful in finding the right building.

Terrain View

This feature is very useful, but not yet available in Thailand. As you drive up/down a mountain road or anywhere where the topography changes, a terrain view now clearly shows your car as it moves over the topographical features.

NuRoute

NuRoute is about routing logic. Coupled to a more powerful CPU you get much better route selections than before. From testing I could tell it was picking up my “local shortcuts” where my older models kept me on the main streets. This is immensely useful and much appreciated.

EcoRoute/TrafficTrends/MyTrends

These new features bring a much higher level of intelligence to the GPS operating system. Traffic trends automatically keeps track of your routes, how long it takes, what days of the week, and the time, and then suggests routes based on these factors.

My Trends learns your preferred routes. Over time it remembers any deviations from the recommended routes, and along with the nuRoute information, will help provide the best route possible. The more you use the GPS, the more accurate this information becomes. Over a period of 3-4 weeks time it was like the 3790t was reading my mind about the routes I wanted to take and reminded me when my mind was on other things.

Ecoroute uses all of the above information, your driving habits and speeds, traffic from the traffic radio/alert system, and map data, and then can offer you the most economical route.

Voice Activated

My Nuvi 885t had voice activation and while it worked, I found I didn’t use it much. It was more trouble than it was worth. It also had a button which was held on the steering wheel via a rubber strap which you need to press to activate the system, and press again to deactivate.

The 3790t greatly improves speech recognition. Instead of a button you can now use a voice command and set the command to anything you wish. I set mine to “Computer?” Once it recognizes this command phrase it flashes to its speech recognition screen and awaits your next command. The screen lists your choices, Favorites, Go Home, and the other common commands as well as Go Home. I rarely had to repeat myself which makes the system a joy to use. I now find myself using it whenever the car is moving because it’s actually easier and less stressful than taking my hands off the wheel and my eyes off the road. Finally, a refined and useful speech recognition!

Lane Assist

Lane Assist remains the single most useful navigation tool. In the upper left hand corner of the screen you’ll see a green dialog box with arrows either pointing straight ahead, or turning right or left. If there are four lanes there will be four arrows. It helps position you in the right lane when turning. Also, right above the arrows is your distance to the next turn. Below, you can see that in 2.7 miles you’ll need to bear left from the furthest right lane. I can’t tell you how great this feature is in Thailand.

Junction View

Junction View shows you an actual image of an approaching intersection/junction and places an arrow through the lanes as you should drive them. This is a bit redundant considering Lane Assist (which is more useful) and while it’s available in every major western country in any language, it’s only available in Thailand IF you buy one of their GPS models.

Unfortunately inside Thailand they’re selling 2-4 year old models at more than full retail prices, and none of the new 3700 series or other more advanced/nicer models are available. A cheap and non-effective ploy on their part. If you have a Nuvi model from another country, and it’s one of the models they’ve sold here, there’s a good chance you can get the Thai firmware and flash your firmware to the Thai version thereby gaining Junction View. Frankly I don’t think it’s worth the hassle, it would be great if we had it, but with Lane Assist you won’t miss it much if it’s not there.

Traffic Alerts

When you turn on your Nuvi 3790t for the first time it will ask you to accept licensing terms for the traffic radio and alert system. It only asks you this first time and with this model it’s a lifetime license so there will be no monthly charges.

These traffic alerts and traffic radio receivers are very useful in a country that supports them. Couples with the 3790t’s new routing technology the GPS can tell if one route will have light, moderate, medium, or heavy traffic, show you this information in a handy color code on the route, and then route you away from the worst traffic. Unfortunately there is no such system in Thailand, though they are testing such a system. It’s nowhere close to being tested, and then it would need to be implemented and finally supported in the mapset. I don’t see this happening in Thailand for another 5-7 years.

You can now buy most Nuvi GPS’s with optional lifetime map updates. Look for the “LMT” designator after the model number. For instance, the Nuvi 3790t retails for $449 USD. The Nuvi 3790tLMT retails for $499 USD’s. $50 for lifetime map updates is reasonable.

Hands Free Calls

The 3790t includes Bluetooth capabilities. This allows you to transfer music for the built in music player, eBooks for the eBook reader, images for the picture viewer, via BT. BT also allows you to accept and make hands free calls via voice command. I was able to pair my HTC Desire Android on the first attempt and the hands free feature provides an adequate quality service. I like my BT headset much better, but then it’s right in my ear and near my mouth, and not 2-3 feet away in a noisy car.

Performance

I found the Nuvi 3790t to perform far better in all areas than any previous model I’ve used. Frankly, I didn’t expect it to be worth it’s high cost when I ordered it, but I’m a curious type so I ordered it anyway. It only took a few days use to realize it’s value lays far beyond it’s good looks and great new display.

It locks on after a cold or warm start much faster than my 885t, quickly finds a route, and the route is very often much better than the previous models provided. Immediately I noticed it was routing met through all the shortcuts the locals use and I began to rely on the Nuvi routing much more than I did before.

The volume is more clear and more loud, speech recognition is usable, and if you must reroute, it calculates your new route very quickly.

The driver information screen is easy to read and provides all the necessary information and then some.

If the radio alert senses road construction ahead the 3790t notifies me, and if necessary offers to route me around the construction.

The menu system is much the same as the 885t, when you first turn it on it provides two choices, Where To, and View Map.

Selecting Where To gets you into the main screen for selecting your route.

Overall the performance is very good, the best I’ve seen to date. Even the reception is better.

Summary

This is a tough one. Usually I’d say if your current GPS is working for you then there is no urgency to update to a newer model. However, the Nuvi 3790t changes the game so significantly and the gains in performance and features are so significant, that you’ll really want to get one of these. But then there’s the price.

At $449 USD’s or $499 USD’s with lifetime maps, it’s quite expensive. It’s less expensive than a couple of the 2-3 year old models they’re selling within Thailand, but by US prices it’s a pricey unit. Yet the question remains, is it worth the cost? I think yes. The sum total of the new features, new maps, new look, great display, and higher performance come together in a perfect storm of value which screams BUY ME!

If you’re not replacing a GPS, but buying your first one, then the answer is easy. Buy one of the 3700 series Nuvi’s which more closely fits your needs vs. your budget. It’s that much better than the competition.

You’ll need to guard this one lest it finds its way into the hands of a thief. It so closely resembles an IPhone/Itouch, that thieves will automatically assume it’s such without bothering to take a closer look. Hide it well from the valets or car wash attendants, they won’t know it’s not an IPhone either and a pocketable item worth 2-3x their monthly salary can be quite tempting even for a relatively honest man.

There have been some comments on forums that it looks “fragile.” Perhaps in comparison to the old bulky models, but it looks and probably is every bit as tough as an IPhone and with reasonable care I don’t see any issues. A smartphone you carry everywhere, sit on it, drop it, and basically really use the thing in all environments. A GPS normally lives out its life going from the relative safety of your glove box or console, to the mount and back again. Even if it were fragile, I don’t think you’d harm it in such use.

Despite the price I’m happy I purchased mine. I didn’t go into great detail on all the features, but you should know every feature and every detail has been improved. The Nuvi 3790t is a significant leap ahead of previous models and all the competition. It’s currently the best consumer GPS available and worth every penny!

Photography News of Interest *menu

Are you a Mac user? Apple announced the release of its latest update to Aperture 3.1

Sigma announces a new firmware update for their Sigma DP1x This update shortens the camera turn on/off time and corrects the long recording time.

Sony users get all the breaks! By now you probably know that Sony bought Minolta and adapted their new DSLRs around the Minolta lens mount. Then, they get Carl Zeiss to start turning out their great optics for their new DSLR. What you’re getting is a new modern Carl Zeiss autofocus lens you can’t get on any other system. DPreview reviews the latest Sony Distagon T* 24mm F2 SSM. Read it here.

A bit harsh, but I’m glad to see it. A local wedding photographer took money to shoot a wedding, and then never showed up. It turns out this was his plan all along. Now he’s in jail. Fraud is everywhere these days.

Fall colors, Hope Valley Lake Tahoe. What more do I need to say if you really appreciate fall color photographs? This is a world famous location for shooting fall colors so you’ll want to read this article and maybe add the location to your bucket list.

The opening paragraph At work, Richard Petty runs a clinic around the corner from London’s Harley Street where he specializes in treating men with sexual and prostate conditions. For relaxation, he collects photographs of women. Okaaayyy.. This is really an article about how Annie got shot. Annie Leibovitz that is. This guy collects pictures of recognizable figures with interesting careers and life stories so it’s not surprising a picture of Annie is in his collection. An interesting article.

Windows 8 is scheduled for early 2012, just a bit more than a year away. What, and you haven’t upgrade to Windows 7 yet?

The Canon EOS-1d Mark IV is currently Canon’s professional entry in the sports and wildlife market. With its 16mp 1.3x sensor, super fast autofocus and perhaps the toughest build in the industry, it’s the first of most professionals. Comprehensive reviews on this model have been scarce, so you’ll appreciate this review from Imaging Resource.

This article was the most interesting of the week. The first man. Well, not really. The first photographed man. Taken in 1838, in Paris, using the daguerreotype process. Check out the article.

Halloween was last week, but you might still be interested in how they used to fake “ghostly” . images in the old days. Imagine he attention these sorts of photos would get back in the day

Looking for the fastest possible computer for video rendering? Check out this article from Tom’s Hardware where they learn if taking advantage of the 64 bit Adobe CS5 using Nvidia’s CUDA technology makes a difference. (it does)

Readers Submissions *menu

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the quick reply. I must admit that I haven't really taken time to look at your new website until I got your reply today.

Just to much work and to little free time to look around.

I just created a account and will take the time to look deeper into your site now :)

I attached a few old digital photos you maybe can use in a weekly column when discussing the megapixels race.

These pictures was taken at my home back in Denmark with a Canon PowerShoot Pro 70 with 1.3 megapixel and internal flash (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonpro70/) that I borrowed from work in the weekends back in 2000 (if the file date is correct).

Unfortunately there are no longer any EXIF data properly because of editing, back then most software in the non professional range was not really caring about EXIF.

I properly did some minor editing but mostly the pictures are as taken from the camera. Feel free to use these in your weekly. Megapixel is not everything…

Thanks.

Kim

Kim –

Thank you for your submissions. 1.3mp! I love being reminded that it’s not all about pixels. Cute cat too!

We look forward to your future submissions.

Steve

Hi Steve

Here are some pictures from a quick trip to the UK two weeks ago. Nothing spectacular here in terms of technique but hope they are of interest.

Peter

Hello Peter –

I really enjoyed these! That little cottage is my favorite. Beautiful setting and something truly unusual. Great job capturing the colors and patterns at the farmers market and the old estates are well captured. What do you call the guy with the big rack? Looks like a type of elk, but nothing I’ve seen before.

Thank you

Steve

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

Steve

Have attached the original picture. All the trees in the top left hand bracket look a little bent. I checked the other photo's (different subjects) each side and they are fine, but as I said the three brackets are identical except for exposure. Maybe its the type of tree and wind?

Peter

Hi Peter –

This is easier to see now. (I asked him to send me a full size image for a better look) Do you remember where your focal point was? If you load it in DPP it will show you, but to me it looks like the lower third center.. Which if you consider the distance, the lens, the focal length, you're simply realizing the limits of this particular lens.

If I'm right about your focal point, what you're doing is in a way.. you're amplifying the faults of the lens. The natural softening in the corners in this case. It's just not the tree, but the grass in front of it and pretty much equally on both sides. The one tree on the left seems even more exaggerated because it has a different type of foliage than the other trees. The other trees have distinct leaves, while the tree in question seems to have a sort of 'streaming length' to it. For sure it's a different type of tree, and I think the difference in just an exaggeration of the softening in the corners/edges.

If you had picked a focal point based on the circle of confusion, or more easy to understand, halfway (not in the frame distance, but in actual distance) between the foreground and background, then at F10 you wouldn't be seeing too much of the softening around the edges/corners at F10. But if you were focusing on the near bank (tall brown weeds) or maybe even the far bank, then it could do exaggerate the effect. Looking at the bank closest to you, it appears to be focused, but not in sharp focus. This is the sharpest area of the frame, but it's not as sharp as it should be. At 1/80th it could simply be camera shake reducing the sharpness.

So in other words.. a perfect storm of errors/effects in the focal point, shutter speed, and natural limitation so the lens.

Interesting effect though.. and I could always be wrong. Mine is only an educated guess. If I knew the focal point I'd be more certain.

If I'm wrong, and even if I'm right, I'd recommend doing a 'wall test' with that lens. I really don't think it’s the lens because I've seen some very sharp results from you using it.. but a wall test (a brick wall with details and lines) would quickly show you the max level of detail in the center, with a consistent outward level of detail to compare against. The lines would show you distortion.

I hope this has been of some help. For sure it's been fun!

Steve

This next question comes from the forums.

Hi Steve

I like the idea of having a grid on the view finder of my camera to help me think better about composition before I push the shutter but I don't understand why the optional Canon "E.g.-D precision matte with grid" has 3 horizontal and 5 vertical lines. I was looking for something that would give me a grid aligned to the rule of thirds (i.e. 2 horizontal and two vertical – or 9 boxes. Is the E.G.-d grid designed for an entirely different purpose?

Peter

Peter –

Well.. it's like this.. ;o)

I wouldn't want a grid in the rule of thirds theme. I think if you keep with foreground, mid-ground, background.. the rule of thirds will follow naturally. The biggest skill is learning to "see" the scene. You'll 'see' with the naked eye, frame with the viewfinder, and add to the creation process with camera controls like depth of field.

The lines you refer to are there to help "level" the horizon. The vertical lines help you do this by lining up a vertical line with a vertical feature in the scene, and the same with the horizontal lines. Ideally you'd check both vertical and horizontal at the same time.

Yet, you can certainly get a rule of thirds grid custom etched. I wouldn't bother with the Canon models though. They're lacking in many ways. Instead visit www.brightscreen.com and check out their awesome focus screens. The professional #5 model features a HUGE split diagonal prism which makes accurate manual focus fast and easy.. and you can custom order any line etchings you wish at the time of order.

I have several for each camera body I own. They all have the large #5 Pro diag split prism because while Autofocus is great, the next level up in skill and creativity will be when you override the AF with manual focus. And I have screens with 5×7", 8×10" etchings depending on what my client wants their wedding album or senior book to be sized.. and I have another with simple crosshairs that I use line up horizons.

Yes, they're pricey.. but well worth it. Remember, the focus screen affects the accuracy of your AF, MF, and light metering. When something can affect that much of the process you'll want to get the best and Brightscreen is the best without question.

Next time we get together remind me and I'll show you a 1 series body with one of these screens mounted.

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

Woo Hoo! www.BangkokImages.com has been rebuilt and features a significantly better look, more function, and much faster performance. We officially completed Stage II (Stage I being the initial build) just a few days ago and I’ve gotta say, I really like the look. And I should. This time I was able to directly make and implement the design.

There’s a lot to building a website. I’m sure I drove the original web developer crazy with my demands, attention to detail, and my annoying way of wanting everything “just so..” For a guy used to dealing with regular businesses a photography site must have been a real test of his patience and eye opening in many respects as well.

Many of the websites built for creative types reflect the personalities and work habits of the individual they’re built for. I’ve always felt my words and images represent me. They show my skills, what’s important to me, and they show potential clients my ‘style’ and what they can expect from me when I work with them. Professionals judge other professionals by their work. Today, a website is a direct reflection of a photographers skills and creativity, and if I’m going to have a website then I want it to directly represent me, and not be just “good enough” because it functions or works for some other type of business. I would never expect a develop to understand this, but he must respect it.

While working with my developer on Stage I, he introduced me to the systems, taught me what was possible from his level, and provided a great jump off point where I could learn and start developing on my own. With Stage II I kept much of the same function, while improving and adding other functional areas, and then wrapped it in a style that reflects ‘me’ much more accurately. While my original developer might not have been worried about crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s, each uncrossed T and undotted I made me lose sleep at night. Surely he felt I was nuts and from a third party point of view I can’t blame him.

Now with Stage II complete I’ve already started drafting Stage III. Performance must always remain high, page to page load times, search engine accuracy, gallery speed, these are things which affect performance and no new features will ever be allowed to take away from performance. With this in mind I’ve got some great new ideas for Stage III and which direction I’ll take the site in the future. I’m seeing things like a video gallery with Podcast tutorials for registered users, a more user friendly user gallery area, thumbnails in the gallery indexes, localized content (different languages), and enabling features like private messaging and print ordering. At the same time I look for and highly value what you would like to see. Take a good careful look at www.BangkokImages.com and give me all the feedback you can come up with, tell me what you like or don’t like, and what you’d like to have on the site when you visit.

Meanwhile, because I’ll be on vacation for the next 7-14 days I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a complete column next week or the week after, but I’ll have something to put up. We also have several new pieces of hardware being reviewed (pocket size 1tb USB 3.0 USB Powered hard drive, NEC LCD series monitors, Spectraview II colorimeter and software, a couple lenses, and more gear coming in), and we’ve been field testing several pieces of photography software we’ll be writing up soon. We’ll see you soon!

Infocus Blog, Do you Love Your Ears? *menu

I was reading this article with great interest about noise induced hearing loss and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought of my father who used to be Mr. Macho and shoot his rifles without hearing protection as was common in those days, and my police captain Uncle who did the same thing. They were both going deaf, the only difference was that while my Uncle chose to wear hearing aids to better function with people, my father refused. I couldn’t stand to sit in the same room with him when the music or television was on without putting earplugs in my own ears. Which I did so we could enjoy television together.

In the west it’s very common to see elderly people with hearing aids. I used to mentally call these people part of the “false teeth” era. When my parents were growing up they didn’t know smoking was bad for you, how to properly care for their teeth, and it appears they didn’t understand much about preserving their hearing either. In contrast my recently deceased 94 year old grandmother could hear a pin drop in the next room, she had the ears of a coyote. Women tend to not work with power tools, lawn mowers, shoot guns, or work in industries where hearing loss is a threat. Nor do they normally go to war.

The fact is, we’re only given one body and one set of parts, so we need to do all we can to preserve them. I won’t mind getting old, but I will mind being old if I’m confined to a bed, can’t hear, or have other functional issues which prevent me from enjoying my life. And the truth is we can do a lot about preserving our health. The knowledge is there, the workplace rules are in place, and the technology is available. In modern times there really is no good excuse for losing your teeth or your hearing. Or is there?

New technology creates new threats. As I watch my 17 year old son with his iPod earbuds stuck in his ears I think of my deaf Father and Uncle. Ask a 17 year old, they really won’t believe Steve Job’s would sell a product which could harm them. But he does. Car stereos have great new technology as well. Levels so high in a tiny enclosed space. Clubs are the same. The very technology which excites and thrills the young, is also taking away their hearing once decibel at a time.

Sure, I made my sons aware of this, showed them studies, and while they were young enough to be monitored I’d check on their listening levels. When we worked in our workshops, raced cars, or went to the shooting range, I always had top of the line hearing protection for everyone. Yet, I wonder how loud he cranks up his iPod when I’m not watching. I know if I was that 17 year old I’d find a way to use technology to hide the levels from my dad.. My guess is he’s no different. He also might be the next generation walking around old and deaf.

I’ve also noticed that most every Thai person I know is hard of hearing. If I watch television with them they can’t hear the sound as my normal listening levels. I’m constantly asked to “turn it up please..” A brief look around the city reveals why:

Sound levels and the amount of time you’re exposed to those levels determines if the environment is safe for your hearing. My guess is that most city streets in Bangkok exceed the levels. Most malls probably exceed safe levels by 300-400%. Workplaces rarely have sound insulation and I’ve yet to see a Thai person wearing hearing protection of any type, even when working in extremely loud environments.

We’ve all been to the Thai clubs where the music is so loud you have to literally shout into the ear of the person sitting next to you to get a word in. Many times I’ve left a club and walked outside into a sort of numbness and didn’t fully recover my hearing until the next morning. Well, not really. If you understand how hearing loss accumulates over time, and how sound is constantly killing off the fine hairs that allow you to hear, then you’ll understand each exposure to this type of environment is causing permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

Here’s the kicker. The Thai’s I’ve noticed who can’t hear well. They’re woman. In the west women aren’t going deaf, but they are here. Why? Environmental noise like I described above. And if you consider the women I’m referring to are in the 25-40 year old range, then you’ll understand how serious the problem is.

Hearing aids are expensive. In Thailand only the rich can afford hearing aids. There are hearing aid stores in Thailand and I’ve been to a few with my Uncle and another friend. There’s just not that many because the average Thai finds it less expensive to just turn up the music or stereo than worry about it. While at the same time damaging the hearing of the children living in the same home. It’s perpetual.

I know in the west many cities take noise very seriously and our workplaces are well monitored for excessive noise and other hazards. But what about while in Thailand? In Thailand we need to look out for ourselves, to be educated, and to not allow ourselves to be in the type of environments which cause hearing loss. This means most bars, most clubs, almost all the streets if not in your own car/taxi, most shopping areas, and I’m sure you can think of many other such places.

A precaution is simple. Carry around a few sets of foam earplugs in your pocket, they often come in keychain containers, and when you go in a loud bar or club then use the earplugs. I say a few sets, one set for you, and bring a few sets for your mates as well. Ask yourself, do you want to be that old deaf guy some day? We used to not have a choice, but today we do. Make the right one.


Until Next Time..