In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog February 4th, 2012

Vintage DSLR Canon 1ds Mark II vs 5d Mark II/China Real Estate/Trip Report Thailand/Thailand Photo Stories by Dana


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Infocus Blog, Thailand Photo Stories by Dana


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Feature Photograph *menu

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Canon 1ds Mark II, 135mm F2L USM F2.8 1/250th ISO 3200

A few weeks back I found myself at the Universities Krannert Center for the Performing Arts photographing a friends band. Arriving late I took the only available table and found myself locked into the one position.

Lately I’ve rekindled my love affair with my Canon 1ds Mark II which at eight years old could rightfully be considered a vintage DSLR when you take into account how fast digital technology becomes obsolete. I had it serviced at a Canon Service Center and hunting around I found and paid dearly for an original Canon NP-E3 NIMH battery.

After years of using my new Canon 5d Mark II in the same locations, same weather, and same time of year as images from the 1ds Mark II, I’d concluded the 1ds Mark II made marginally better images at ISO 800 and lower. From ISO 1000-6400 the 5d Mark II had the end due to it’s lower noise levels. Yet, below ISO 800 the 1ds Mark II makes some really sweet files that appeal to me more than those from my 5d Mark II. So, I’ve been using the 1ds Mark II more and more these days.

Like tonight, I’d often use them together. Tonight I even added the Fuji x100 with its stellar 35mm (equiv) F2 lens set at ISO 3200, the 5d Mark II mounted with the superb 85mm F1.2L USM set at ISO 3200, and my trusty but not rusty 1ds Mark II mounted with the excellent 135mm F2L USM lens. I was lazy, with 35mm, 85mm, and 135mm I wouldn’t even need to change a lens. Because it was a dark room with only stage lighting the speed of this trio of fine glass was important, but so was their ability to produce noise free images.

As I sat enjoying the music and hemmed in unable to move, I methodically went from camera to camera photographing members of the band separately and together. If you’ve even photographed bands where the stage lighting includes rotating light wheels you quickly learn to wait for the blue light to take your picture vs. the red or green. Blue allows you enough latitude with the white balance to be able to correct the skin tones later.

As we look at these two images you could be forgiven for not seeing any difference in image quality between the two. Both are obviously critically focused, but just as obviously you see the lack of detail brought on because of the higher ISO’s and noise reduction software. Both look very good considering the circumstances, but when you look at the 5d Mark II image, especially around the beard, you’ll notice a bit more detail.

In practice the eight year vintage DSLR Canon 1ds Mark II produces images every bit as good as the new Canon 5d Mark II. I have thousands of images shot with both of these cameras in the same locations, same weather, and same time of year which supports this statement. But, because the 1ds Mark II is a 1 series body with a much faster more capable autofocus and metering system, you’ll get more keepers overall.

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Canon 5d Mark II 85mm F1.2L USM @F2 1/500th ISO 3200

I know this goes against the popular opinion you’ll read on forums, and this is only my opinion. But I’ve used both of these cameras extensively over a long period of time and produced tens of thousands of like images to compare, and it’s my opinion the vintage Canon 1ds Mark II makes better images at ISO 800 and below, while the Canon 5d Mark II makes better images above ISO 800.

Here’s the good part. Have you ever wanted the superior autofocus and metering of a 1d series body? The top build quality, dual flash memory cards, and much higher quality shutter, shutter release and other buttons and controls? But you didn’t want to spend the $8000? Well, the 1ds Mark II regular sells on Ebay for as little as $600 and usually not much more than $900.. so if you want a high quality 1d body that makes comparable images to the much newer 5d Mark II for a fraction of the cost of the 5d Mark II then you know where to get one.. Vintage DSLR’s rock!

Chinese Real Estate *menu

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

For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books. Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: [email protected]

When visiting another country you wouldn’t think that roaming around looking at new buildings under construction would be a significant thing in a trip but it was. These buildings and all they represented are one of the most significant issues facing China today.

The last time I had come to China three years before I was completely shocked by the pace of grown all over the country. I spent some time in Zhengzhou, a medium size city that nobody in the west has ever heard of. I had come up with an example for my friends to put it in perspective that in six years they had built a new section of town that was bigger than the downtown of a medium sized US city multiplied by two. This time around after getting a better survey of the situation I realized that example was still understating the reality.

After having gotten past the “I can’t believe this” stage I started to look closer at the phenomenal growth and saw something much larger, and perhaps darker. These high rise apartment complexes were going up everywhere. But after I found out how much they cost and looking at them up close I realized this is a huge bubble waiting to pop.

The price of housing in China is becoming a real social issue. In fact when we would talk with Chinese the price of housing was the number one topic of conversation that was on their minds. The apartments that are being built in the Cities are running 20-30 times the annual wage of a normal worker with a decent job. New apartments at the edge of development are running over $200K US. Older apartments in better parts of town $300K or more. These are being sold to people who make $500/month?

After talking with people we found that apartments are a wildly popular investment tool for the affluent class. Often times return on bank accounts is regulated by the government; inflation is high so people are looking for ways to maintain the value of their cash. Now were a person who’s official salary is maybe $1000-2000 a month gets an extra half million to worry about is a whole other matter but they want to put it somewhere. So they buy real estate because the price is rising so fast. It’s a good investment right?

It’s a good shell game. As best I could tell most of the official owners of these places don’t live there. Many of these apartments are purchased but empty. Many are rented out but if you run the numbers on rate of return on rent vs the cost it doesn’t make sense. It’s all about the appreciation value. There is an active market of selling these things to other buyers. But most of the activity seems to be one investor selling it to another investor. Not sales to the end user.

Inevitably comparison to the Japanese experience in the early 90’s came up. But many Chinese think somehow this is different. I would agree in that its worse. In Japan because of geographical and market forces land to build on was very precious. While China might be a very crowded place there is not a strong limit on the amount of land they can use to build houses. This is because developers don’t have to pay market prices for land. If a developer wants to make a bunch of money they simply go to the local government, show them their plan, promise an apartment or two for someone’s family and spread some cash around. Then they local officials go an appropriate the land from the farmers paying them as little as they feel they can get away with (like a one way rail ticket to go starve somewhere else). But since it’s for “the betterment of the nation” and the right people are bought off it all happens under the rug.

At first I thought it might be different in that for the most part this is “surplus” money being dumped into the market. While it is possible to get a bank loan to buy a place that’s not the Chinese tradition only accounts for a small percentage of the “financing” activities. A lot of money is being borrowed from friends and family to buy an apartment to simply get in on the gravy train. It works till the train stops and China discovers they’ve tied up good chunk of their national wealth in this mess.

Another reason this is a giant game of Chicken (aside from the realities of supply and demand taking their toll) is that these buildings are built with amazing speed and poor quality. The rate that can build these things is shocking. I once heard it boasted they could build a floor a week once they got going. They can build a whole housing development for 20,000 people in less time than it takes us to do the paperwork for skyscraper.

I visited a few recently constructed buildings (within the last 2 years). They already had tiles falling off the walls in the common areas and issues with the elevators working reliably. I thought back to some buildings I had seen earlier that were around 15 years old (pre-boom) major cracks and chunks falling out of walls. It’s questionable if these buildings will last 50 years. So what happens to the building (and your apartment in it) once they start falling apart? The answer in the past was tear it down and build something better. I’m not sure that this is going to work this time around. In the past you were tearing down small 2-6 story apartments and replacing them with large 30+ story buildings. Economically that is very doable as you have more 5-10 times more people per square foot of land to finance it. But tearing down a 30 story to put in another 30 story. Everyone gets to buy their apartment over again? I don’t see that happening and I don’t see them building 60 story units instead.

The way I see it this is a giant train wreck waiting to happen. Real estate speculation has tanked the economies of just about every western nation, why should China be different. Welcome to the club.

Trip Report Thailand *menu

BigJoe has submitted two other articles, “An Amateurs Perspective of the Four Seasons in South Korea”, and “Krabi Thailand, South West Monsoon.” Now BigJoe is penning a daily diary of his current visit to Thailand in real time. He’ll send me his daily submissions and I’ll add them to this article where the last piece submitted will be listed first. BigJoe’s articles are always fun and informative so you will want to follow his 0travels and see how he experiences Thailand.

January 7th, 2012

Arriving at Suvarnabhumi airport after a long uneventful flight from Seoul I decided to try the Airport link to Makkasan Station in order to do some photography along the way. The train is located on the lowest level and can easily be found following the blue directional signs. I purchased my one way express ticket for 90 baht and was guided to the platform by the friendly and overly helpful staff. During the seven-minute wait for the train only two other passengers showed up and I started to wonder why. The adjacent platform to Phaya Thai station was much busier and seems to be the route of choice. After boarding, the trip took under 15 minutes during which I took shots of the inside of an empty car while attempting to capture the passing landscape through the windows.

On arrival at Makkasan station I waited briefly for the two other riders to clear the platform and started taking shots of the empty space. This is when a platform security officer approached me waving me off saying “No Pictures”. Already having the shots I wanted, I nodded and departed the empty station with my bags in tow. Directly outside was a taxi stand with two waiting cabbies. When I asked them to go by meter they directed me to the street about 150 meters away. I wheeled my bags to the street where I found the entrance to the subway. Not wanting to sit in the slow moving traffic and knowing my hotel was near Asok station I decided this was a better option.

About 20 minutes later I was checking into my room with another Bangkok experience in the bag. What I take away from this is the airport express link to Makkasan station is a fast trip to inconvenience. Something is clearly wrong with how this station layout was planned. Having a connection to the subway or a legitimate taxi stand would be a step in the right direction. It is possible the taxi drivers boycott this station to keep business up at the airport. As for “no pictures”, I understand security concerns, but tourists take pictures. Being told they can’t snap a few shots of how they arrived will most certainly engrave a negative picture in their minds as first impressions are lasting. I’ll end with two shots of my initial entry into Bangkok, an empty train car and a deserted Makkasan station.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 3.5 at 1/8th sec 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Camera braced on seatback)

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8.0 at 1/50th sec 25mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Camera resting on suitcase)

January 8th, 2012

Waking after a night out I cleared the cobwebs with some good spicy Thai food, grabbed the camera bag and headed out to retrace some old footsteps. The skies were clear and blue and the streets full of people. Activity on the streets can produce appealing images and I find the vantage of the sky train platforms provide an interesting perspective of the city.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8.0 at 1/200th sec 38mm (60.8mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Remembering a trip here in 2009 trip I retraced my footsteps to where my interest in the hobby was most likely borne. I had just purchased my first DSLR and was here on vacation. During a brief outing to Benjakiti Park I shot all images with the camera set on automatic mode and remember being amazed at the clear pictures especially at night. Possessing a better understanding of the camera’s settings I intended to recapture similar images with me controlling the camera setings in manual mode.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/125th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

Benjakati Park is located off of Ratchadaphisek road about 200 meters south of the Asok sky train station (top picture). Smaller than Lumphini Park it covers less than two square kilometers and is open to the public daily. Visited by both Thais and foreigners it offers a relaxing locale in the city center for exercise or other activities. There are two circuits around the parks large lake, one for pedestrian and the other bicycle traffic.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-350mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/50th sec 21mm (33.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

This popular location for amateur photographers saw several out shooting images of their friends and the parks well-maintained landscape. During my outing I concentrated on experimenting with the late afternoon/early evening sunlight from different angles. I also like how the skyline surrounding the lake adds an attention-grabbing backdrop to the scenes. Throughout the park there are plenty of angles for interesting compositions where you can capture near, mid and far subjects in a single image. I circled the lake taking advantage of as many vantages as I could, ending with shots of the setting sun from the east side of the lake. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check in again as I’ll be retracing my footsteps to other interesting locations during the upcoming weeks.

January 9th. 2012

Following my footsteps from two years ago I boarded the sky train at Nana station made the change to the Silom line at Siam station enroot to Saphan Thaksin station. I exited the western end of Thaksin station down the stairs to Sathon Pier. Here a long tail boat can be hired as transportation or for a tour of the river and canals of Western Bangkok. My plan was to follow my path from two years ago on a short loop of the canals. This was not to be as the countries water management system has been regulating water flow through the canals and the water gates that access the river were closed. This meant no boat ride through the canals today. I could and did take a ride down the river during sunset where I captured today’s images. The price of the boats is negotiated with the gentleman on the pier and can be hired for one person or a group. To get their attention look interestingly at one of the river tour signs and they will be sure to come to you. The two times I have rented a boat I was the only rider as I wanted the driver to slow down to allow me to take photos without inconveniencing others. It is also my assumption that added movement of others would “rock the boat” so to speak resulting in a higher chance of motion blur.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/200th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

From the pier the driver skillfully guided the craft along the agreed upon rout 30 minutes downriver and back. The first shot is of a tanker that sat next to a dry dock. At first I wasn’t going to include it because it is severely underexposed even after increasing the exposure. But, since Steve really likes boats and I really like the clarity, colors and reflection of the sun that sat low on the horizon to my rear I decided I would share it.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/100th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

The second image is of the sun setting between two large ships. Throughout the trip the boat driver made sure slow when I put the camera to my eye but with the strong current I still had to be quick to choose my shots with the adequate settings.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/30th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 800

(Handheld)

The third image is of the bottom side of the Rama III Bridge with the Krungthep Bridge in the background. I was trying not to set the shutter below 1/30th of a second throughout the trip in order to reduce motion blur. Not wanting to sacrifice f-stop I instead adjusted the ISO to compensate. The results were mixed as shots 90 degrees to the port or starboard at 1/30th of a sec were all blurred and as it got darker it became more and more difficult to capture decent images.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/30th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 6400

(Handheld)

I’m including this last image because I like it. It shows the Sathon Tower behind Wat Yannawa (The Boat Temple) with an eerie sky filled with noise. I think it gives the image a ghostly appearance, which is ironic as the tower is know by locals as the “Ghost Tower”. It’s construction was halted and it has been abandoned since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. As the light dimmed I could have sacrificed a few f-stops but was experimenting and trying to avoid this to see how the images would look. The long tail boat ride is quickly becoming a favorite of mine as it is a relaxing way to spend a few hours while providing countless photographic opportunities.

January 10th, 2012

Described by some as the “Farang Ghetto” of Bangkok it is lined with a mix of modern high-rises and aging structures. Shaded by it’s overhanging sky train, Sukhumvit Road cuts its way through a cornucopia of hotels, storefronts, condominiums, restaurants, bars and much more. While walking the street with my camera looking to capture the essence of this unique neighborhood I found it challenging to put together a composition. The subjects were there but the opportunity for a good shot was often fleeting. Several attempts were spoiled as traffic or people moved into the frame at the time of capture, blocking the subject or ruining the composition. For my personal growth more practice and patience is needed with these candid city shots. In the interim I will stick to focusing on the architecture and landscape.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/320th sec 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Today’s first shot is taken from Soi 10 next to a small park in the direction of Sukhumvit Road. A walk down one of these small Alleys (Soi) is sure to take you into another world all together. Each Soi is different and may cater to an individual ethnicity, be lined with bars and street vendors or be the home of the rich, middle and lower class all living within meters of one another.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/80th sec 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

The second picture of the day is of an old district that’s in the early stages of transformation. Washington Square was here long before my first visit to the city and has long been in a state of decline. Memories imparted to me by retired Sergeant Majors who visited Thailand when “Pattaya’s streets were paved with sand and clay” tell of a more prosperous time in the square. As for myself, over the past ten years I’ve enjoyed frequenting Bourbon Street and The Dubliner, which as I understand it, are at differing stage of moving to new locations.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/30th sec 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

The squares Texas Lone Star Salon window still advertises “Food Wimmin Likker” but like the majority of other establishments here it is barricaded shut. The adjacent door hangs open with stairway behind leading to empty rooms that may have at one time been discrete meeting places. It’s uncertain as to what will become of the square, as it seems one side is being gutted while the other remains untouched. From an outsiders view, the transformation of the square may very well symbolize changes in the expat community’s relationship with Thailand that are now becoming evident in the “Farang Ghetto” of Bangkok.

January 11th, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/60th sec 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Mounted to monopod)

As the sampans rested in the lock the water gate to our front rose in order to permit entry into the canals of western Bangkok. This my second trip on the river this week was going as planned taking me into the canals that had recently been inundated by flood waters in order to save central Bangkok. The canals were built to regulate water levels passing through to the Gulf. Today they were doing their job and the water in the canal was about a half meter lower than the river.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 2.8 at 0.300 sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 1600

(Mounted to monopod)

As we moved through the canals I remembered, from a previous trip, the location of the floating market, bridges and Buddha I wanted images of. Taking the time to preplan what you want to shoot can save allot of time and missed opportunities. I had previewed the route on Google Earth prior to leaving my room and was ready with the proper lens and angle for better shots. The above image is of a floating market entrepreneur making his way out to ambush me into buying some trinkets. We settled on drinks for me any my driver and were on our way.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/80th sec 28mm (44.8mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Mounted to monopod)

Because this trip was to last until after dusk and I was on a moving boat I had a new variable to deal with in order to get quality shots. Motion blur caused by shooting while moving can be difficult to conquer especially in low light. I decided it would help to have a stable platform so I brought along my monopod. I had fitted it with a flat rubber boot that kept it from sliding or scratching the smooth surfaces of the boat. I also made camera adjustments to increase the shutter speed sacrificing f-stops and ISO as it got darker. This worked until it became too dark and motion blur became part of the composition in the above image. As I wrap up my stay in Bangkok and move on to the Islands I look forward to returning and taking more sampans out onto the river and canals.

January 12th, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/100th sec 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Today’s shots are all from the walkway above Sukhumvit Road at the Asok sky train station. This area has undergone a great deal of change since my first visit to Bangkok. The new Grand Center Point Hotel and Terminal 21 shopping center towers over where old shops and bars once stood. A few of the old buildings still stand but who can tell how long they last. Will the growth of the city bring a new type of tourist? I believe it already has. Families and couples of all ages now walk the street where at one time a mix of drunken sailors and roughnecks looked to get rowdy in one of Bangkok’s renowned bar areas.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 10 at 1/80th sec 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

The mix of old and new gives Bangkok its unique feel and can be seen everywhere. Vendors line their food carts in front of a Starbucks or down a small soi adjacent to a 5 star hotel. Some of the more predominant establishments keep their walkways clear but the tide of Thai entrepreneurs continues to slowly eat away at their borders.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/125th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

A thing I find good about the change is that you can now walk above the street from the Times Square Building all the way across Asok Road. This walkway has been kept clear of vendors and loiterers with stairs leading to both sides of the street in several locations. From the Times Square building you can see Nana Station. Wouldn’t it be nice if the bridge joined the two stations? You could then stroll along one of the busiest stretches of Sukhumvit without being bothered. Imagine if this came to be… how would those tailors tout their suits… by trampoline?

January 13th, 2012

As I walked the length of Ao Nang beach I noticed a definite difference from when I was here just last June. With high season in full swing the beach was lined with long tail boats on and off loading passengers while further down families lay in the sun. The road was busy with sam-lor, pedestrians and shop owners out selling their wares. Surprisingly the weather was the only thing not so different. June was the monsoon season and was supposed to have rain daily, which it did but mainly for short periods in the evening. At the hotel the staff tells me that during this time of the year it rains daily as well but during mid afternoon. This has held true so far and during my excursion along the beach I snapped away at the scenery with the dull grey clouds as a backdrop to the landscape. On this trip I intended to capture more images away from the beach of the limestone peaks and the local community. This remains my plan but as Krabi has awesome sunsets I grabbed my camera and headed to the closest stretch of beach just as the sun was going down. The next four photos were all taken within a 100-meter stretch and I’ve placed them in the order of captured.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 6.3 at 1/160th sec 23mm (36.8mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

The beach is Nopparattara Beach located about a kilometer west of Ao Nang Beach. On the east end of the beach a small inlet empties into the sea where several long tail boats park for the night. Today the tide was out and the water was extreemly low allowing me to walk along the stranded boats. A stretch of sand blocked the waves at the mouth of the inlet and the still water the boats sat in provided reflections that add a new dimension to the composition.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 5.6 at 1/40th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 800

(Handheld)

As I passed the first boat I turned and captured the above image. I believe that I could have shot from almost any angle with great results.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 4.5 at 1/60th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

I continued along the water shooting as I went with the anticipated view of the sunset just beyond the rocky outcrop. This shot shows how the water gets shallower and you can cross over to the beach at low tide. All of these images are unedited save a minor crop, angle correction and size reduction for sending over the internet. This image might benefit by increasing its exposure with a graduated filter or brush, something I will work on after my vacation.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 4.5 at 1/40th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

The final image is from the beach with the tide low and sun under the horizon. Another photographer was out with his camera on a small tripod working hard to get that perfect shot of the sunset. I doubt he could hear me clicking away behind him nor do I think he realize he was the subject of my composition. This so far is my favorite image of the trip. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I am.

January 14, 2012

Greetings of “Hello” accompanied by a friendly wave and sincere smile were among the many pleasantries of this outing. As I walked the stretch of beach from where I shot the sunset the evening prior I developed my initial impression. This strand filled with Thais but very few foreigners is beauty defined. Bookended by small rocky islands the beach is long and flat with omnipresent views of jutting islands and limestone cliffs. The sands are not cleared of shells and coral making it rough on the tender-footed farang but it is wide and ends in one of the most scenic locations in Krabi. Today I have five images from here with the first three a series where a young Thai was happy to show his volleyball skills.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/100th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/100th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/100th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

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At the far end of the beach are a series of small rock islands and a harbor on the mouth of a large inlet.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/40th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

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Boats come and go while fishermen line the bank making for the possibility of some interesting compositions.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 5 at 1/30th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

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As I walked the entire area I realized that the unique terrain accompanied by changing tides and weather conditions make this area is a photographic gold mine. Only a couple of kilometers away, tourists line the beaches of Ao Nang capturing identical images of the setting sun on their cell phones and point and shoot cameras. How long will it be before this undeveloped stretch of beach joins the ranks of Ao Nang and beaches of Phuket.

January 15th, 2012

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 4 at 1/2000th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 200

(From monopod)

Continuing from where I turned back the previous day I followed the beach into the harbor passing watercraft of every size, shape and state of seaworthiness. A few were under construction with more in for repair sitting along side abandoned craft being salvaged for parts. Boats continuously navigated the channel slowing to produce less wake as they passed others. These slow moving craft facilitated added to the composition when captured at just the right time.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/100th sec 20mm (32mm equivalent) ISO 100

(From monopod)

The port on the western end of Nopparattara Beach was full to the brim with the long tail its primary species. Craft lined the harbor for as far as I could see while the descending sun set the surrounding cliffs ablaze. The weather has been without rain for two days but the thunderheads are constantly present threatening to open up with anything from a sprinkle to a downpour. I don’t mind their presence though as they add an ever-changing dimension to the landscape.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 4 at 1/640th sec 25mm (40mm equivalent) ISO 200

(From monopod)

A newly constructed concrete pier juts into deeper water with larger vessels moored to it. Here tickets can be purchased to the neighboring communities throughout the Krabi and Phuket islands. I shot images on top, underneath to the left, right and behind this sturdy wharf. I wasn’t alone as others clambered about the jetty capturing images of the resting pod of long tails. I could spend weeks exploring this area with my camera and if I got bored a tour of the local islands might be in order.

January 16th, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/400th sec 24mm (28.4mm equivalent) ISO 400

00111(Handheld)

Rising out of the surrounding tropical forests and jungles the limestone spires provide Krabi with its unique signature. Arriving by automobile, plane or ferry one cannot fail to notice these coarse rock faces that provide attention-grabbing contrast across the horizon. In my efforts I discovered that capturing their image up close can prove to be challenging due to their sheer size and the dense foliage surrounding them.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 5 at 1/60th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 200

(From monopod)

Armed with newly acquired knowledge on how to employ the camera’s histogram I headed to an old location midway between Ao Nang and Nopparattara Beaches. The rocky outcrop is a location I’m familiar with, as I’ve used it as a focal point in an earlier article on Krabi during the Monsoon. After climbing onto the protruding rocks I set my camera on the monopod and studied the scene. Using the histogram I “exposed to the right”, a technique Steve teaches in his article on Histograms. It’s a sure way to proper exposures every time. The article can be found here.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 3.2 at 1/50th sec 17mm (27.2mm equivalent) ISO 800

(From monopod)

On this outing I shot several images but far less than I normally do. The old technique of bracketing the exposure over several shots in order to have more to choose from is on its way into my mental library. In the future I’ll dust it off for use if I’m unsure as to how I want to expose a shot. The first of today’s images was taken a few days ago at the base of the cliffs in the second image. The second and third were taken on this outing employing my newfound knowledge. The third may be a bit underexposed but shows what I found most appealing to my eye at the time of capture. All of today’s images were processed as I also learned post processing is a vital step in digital photography.

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January 17th, 2012

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/250th sec 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Gazing out over the water as its waves incessantly drew the imprints of the day into the sand I thought of how I could best describe the small tourist town of Ao Nang. Serenity came to mind as the ambiance of the eatery where I sat with its cool ocean breeze and soft sounds of the sea induced a tranquil mood.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/160th sec 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

Having already shared the beaches, and boat yards of the area I have yet to illustrate what lies beyond. In my daily excursions along the main thoroughfare I captured many images and will use several to help with this description. The road is busy throughout the day but never to the point of congestion with pedestrians walking the sidewalks in the majority. Using the walkway on the beach side of the road I avoided the small crowds and annoying suit touts enabling me to comfortably shoot from a distance.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/320th sec 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

A variety of shops lined the road where merchants sell goods from eyeglasses to street food. You can book a tour in a coffee shop, have a drink on the sidewalk or even get a tattoo in an ice cream parlor, as the businesses are many and multifaceted. Here the food of the street vendor has added the spice of the south specializing in Thai Muslim dishes. These dishes are possibly some of the best Thailand has to offer.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 10 at 1/125th sec 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

For those who want to brave motoring the small roads of the province motorbikes, bicycles, cars and jeeps are available. Private entrepreneurs line the streets with their cars, trucks and SUVs advertised as taxi services. Caution is advised if you wish to drive yourself around as Thai traffic laws are interpreted and enforced in many ways by the local authorities.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/125th sec 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Samlors are abundant and provide speedy transport over a short distance. The normal fare averaged between 40 and 80 baht depending on the distance. I encountered only one driver who was insistent upon recommending venues he could take me to rather than where I wanted to go. Countering with a polite “no” and steadfast instruction to take me to my destination solved the issue.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/500th sec 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

The red “tuk tuk” or “song teows” of Phuket seem to have made their way to the peaceful town of Ao Nang. It’s unclear to me if the unruly reputation of these little red wagons has followed them. I, however, didn’t see many in use as most were parked with the driver asleep in a nearby taxi stand.

As my sixth and final day of exploring Ao Nang faded into twilight the endangered tranquility of this seaside retreat came to mind. While singles and pleasure seekers flood the other beaches lined in neon, Krabi has been the place to bring the children and family. Ao Nang is growing and its success is bringing change, change that is evident in the scattered signs of development. On one of my walks I counted no less than 28 tailor shops along the two-kilometer stretch between the hotel and Starbucks. Is Ao Nang heading down the same path as Phuket or Pattaya? Is this place really different with its tame nightlife venues targeting couples opposed to the rowdy crowds the cities of blatant debauchery attract? Will the endangered tranquility here survive or will more imposing feet place mocking prints in the sand that scoff the soothing efforts of the waves?

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January 18th, 2012

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/400th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

With Thai colors flailing tight in the wind the ferry gained momentum. Standing aft of the cabin on the main deck I watched the billowing white clouds grow as the towering cliffs of Krabi shrank in comparison. Having booked passage at the hotel from Ao Nang to Phuket every detail was covered and all I had to do was be at the right place at the right time. A large open-air truck loaded with a few other passengers picked me up at the lobby transferring us to the pier I had photographed a few days earlier. On arrival we were shown the gangway leading to deck hands who assisted in stowing our luggage allowing us to roam freely about the vessel. With two decks both having enclosed air-conditioned cabins the ferry had ample room to lie about and relax.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 10 at 1/320th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

(Handheld)

After sailing from the pier we passed through the mouth of the harbor into open water and following the coast to the western tip of Railay Beach. Here the ferry took on additional passengers transferred out from the secluded beaches by long tails. With all aboard the Ao Nang Princess set sail across the Straights of Malacca to Phuket harbor. Steady winds kept me cool as I caught some rays on the deck throughout the two hour journey. The scenery remained unchanged until the cliffs of Krabi vanished behind Ko Yao Yai, an island midway through the trip. Photographic opportunities were minimal with sea and distant horizon topped by a few wisps of clouds the norm. When we arrived at the Phuket port we were shown to waiting vans that transported us to our hotels. I would recommend this relaxing means of travel to any who aren’t prone to sea sickness as it made a nice transition in my vacation travels from Krabi to Phuket.

January 19th, 2012

The pounding in my head had subsided and the ringing in my ears was almost unnoticeable as I made my way to the Jungceylon Shopping Mall in Patong, Beach Phuket. I had arrived the evening prior and linked up with a buddy just in from Korea. Not ones to break rituals that have been practiced for ages by our military brethren we had made our way to the most mischievous part of Patong Beach.

Bangla road, known as walking street because it’s closed to vehicle traffic at night, is a neon spectacle of bars of every shape, type and variety. Open air bars, rock and roll bars, country bars, Irish pubs, New Zealand bars, Australian bars, Russian bars, go-go bars, kathoey bars, hookah bars and almost any other type of bar, club, lounge, pub, disco or watering hole can be found here.

Our thunder run had started after dinner and lasted into the early hours ending with a crawl back to the hotel stopping at a street vendor for a bite to eat along the way. We had done our brothers proud hitting many venues fast and hard leaving a trail of empties in our wake. The thing about being on vacation is you can do this without worry of what you will be doing the next day. Of course after waking mid-afternoon I did little more than nothing with the trip to the shopping center being my first and biggest adventure of the day.

Back in my room I sat down to respond to emails when the knock on the doors came. I opened it to find a smile. Not just any smile, a mischievous smile, a mischievous smile that says, “You won’t be spending your evening on that laptop, and you might want to drink water, grab some ear plugs and take a Tylenol”. This is going to be a long week. I hadn’t taken my camera out of the bag since arriving in Phuket so there are no images to back this tale. I will make the effort to carry a point and shoot along next time to capture the events as they unfold.

January 20th, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/1250th sec 22mm (35.2mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Leaning on the rail of another ferry we watched Phuket Town grow smaller. The thunder run had ended earlier than the first as we decided to wake early and head out to Koh Phi Phi.

Phi Phi Island is a well-known tourist stop located in the Straights of Malacca between Phuket and Krabi. We were headed there with the thunder run in tow. Both of us had been to the island before and remember it in different stages. I had visited within a year of the tsunami that devastated the coast of Phuket and washed the low-lying center of Phi Phi clean. The island had been clear of all but a few buildings with reconstruction efforts just under way. "J" had visited more recently and remembers it in a recovered state. When we arrived this time I didn’t recognize the place at all and he only remembered bits and pieces of it. I recall being able to see from one beach across to the other but now the center is saturated with hotels, shops and varying venues.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/125th sec 17mm (27.2mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

We checked into the first hotel we could find, grabbed a bite to eat and started exploring the island. With my camera in hand I headed to the northern beach and looked for a vantage to shoot from. The sun was setting behind the western mountain so I headed to the east end and shot back across the water. Later that evening the bars lining the beach had shows and shot fireworks into the air to attract customers. This was to be the site of the nights thunder run.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/60th sec 17mm (27.2mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

I also shot across the bay to the north using the light of the setting sun with some success. On the walk back to the room Phi Phi was getting busier as scuba divers returned from exploring the oceans bottom. The crowds were mostly foreigners with the only Thais being the workers at the many establishments. Later that night sitting at an open-air bar I came to realize that I wasn’t really in Thailand. I was physically in Thailand but this place had become foreign to even Thais. They owned and operated many of the venues but I doubt many actually lived on the island. Perhaps their fear of ghosts along with the sheer number of people killed by the tsunami kept them away but this was not Thailand. Phi Phi is a beautiful island with much to see and do but to visit and claim you have been to Thailand would be a farce. If I decide to return, it will be with Thai friends in hopes of returning a bit of Thailand to Phi Phi.

January 21st, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/250th sec 57mm (35.2mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

So, this is not Thailand? Thais line the small lanes selling Thai goods. Aromas exclusive to Thai street vendors hang in the air enticing inexperienced travelers to take on a lungful only to receive the potent rancor of yesterdays refuse. A solitary tailor shop is tucked in amongst the many stalls with its eager man out offering handshakes to all passing by. To me the sights, sounds, smells and taste of the food are Thai, so why not the feel? The answer would differ among most asked, with some answering that it does feel like Thailand. The absence of the chorus of “Hello welcome!” raining down from neon vestibules may leave some feeling out of place. Others may miss the tonal chatter amid the hum of the city. Some while not actually missing the insect or squid vendors may discover it as a missing piece of authenticity. I did enjoy my time on Phi Phi and will return. My answer to the question is simple. I miss that one element which is Thailand’s heart and soul and defines its character. I missed its people.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/400th sec 24mm (27.2mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Up early after carousing the beaches of Phi Phi into the wee hours we gathered our things and made our way to the pier. Here the ferry loads twice a day, in the morning at 0900 and afternoon at 1400. With the exception of the crew there were fewer than twenty Thais on board making up less than 10% of the total passengers. Finding a seat in the shade where I could hang my feet over the gunwales I pulled out my camera and readied to take some shots. On the pier Thai flags fluttered as they do over the rest of the Kingdom. Indeed this is Thailand.

Sony Cybershot DS-W300; f 2.8 at 1/20th sec 8mm ISO 400

(Handheld)

Returning to Phuket we continued our run but the thunder rolled softly on this night. Before the end of the evening I snapped a few shots of Soi Bangla, which was as packed as ever. Families and the more traditional Thailand tourist were all about making their way through the hawkers advertising shows and more.

Sony Cybershot DS-W300; f 2.8 at 1/20th sec 8mm ISO 400

(Handheld)

The many open-air bars were crowded at the entrances with western men and women keenly watching the road. Deeper in the bars were empty save the staff. It seems the sightseers, wanting a view of Bangla’s seediness, assume it transpires in the middle of the street. Both of these shots are of Bangla teaming with activity. Phuket and Thailand's other inner sanctums are better viewed by those hardy enough to make the journey and develop their own perceptions.

January 22nd, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/13th sec 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

The jagged peaks vertical lined walls reflected the setting suns light. Arranged in an indiscernible pattern regulated by the thoroughfares below the spires jutted skyward. Some, forming a backdrop for others while the upper reaches of the tallest gave definition to Bangkok’s skyline.

Sitting in my room on the 31st floor watching the city light up I reflected back to my first visit. From a room of a similar height I had taken snapshots of the skyline. I later used one of the shots as a wallpaper on my laptop. Since then whenever in a tall building of a city I would snap a few shots of the skyline to add to my collection. During my return from Phuket there were few photo opportunities and I still had nothing for the days submission. Readying to go to dinner and hit the town with “J” I decided to grab a quick snapshot of Bangkok’s skyline for today’s submission.

January 23rd, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/160th sec 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

Her image watched over them, as they pressed into every existing nook in hope of catching a glimpse while curtseying or bowing to Her Majesty, their Queen. Red colored dresses and shirts walked the streets, not as a political statement but to revel in the celebration of the New Year. Dragons respectfully waited her majesties arrival before launching into their ritualistic dance to celebrate the coming of their year. The Chinese Lunar New Year celebrated in late January or early February brings with it a festival in Bangkok’s China Town. This year Her Majesty Queen Sirikit inaugurated the festival illuminating the famous Thai smile on the faces of those in attendance.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/80th sec 25mm (40mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

Parading with Thai flags, dragons and the occasional “Angry Bird” balloon, children and adults came out to join in the festivities. Photographers of all types roamed the streets snapping away at the vibrant colors.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/160th sec 52mm (83.2mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

With the high profile visit by Her Majesty, Bangkok’s finest were out sporting their finest uniforms with medals and accoutrements on show. The boys in brown where not alone as their sisters provided a special escort at one of the Queens stops.

It was an enjoyable and entertaining day void of scams and hassles common in the city. As I walked and took pictures I encountered many happy Thais eager to have their photo taken. One in particular, held his son dressed in red with a red hat, smiled and waited for me to take a few shots. I collected his email and later sent him the images. It was my pleasure to do this and also to allow him to decide whom to share the images with. For me, I had found the people I had missed. I was back in Thailand.

January 24th, 2012

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 4 at 1/640th sec 25mm (40mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

It’s skin, tattooed with advertisements, hid eyes peering out at the ever-changing landscape. The rolling of its wheels barely detectable over the constant chaotic melody rising from below as it sped from its intermediate platform. Never do I remember a carriage being empty though I do recall difficulty squeezing in from time to time. From Mo Chit to On Nut, recently extended to Bearing, the Sukhumvit Line has always been there for me. Siam to Nana to Asok and beyond it offers a simple and inexpensive a way to circumvent Bangkok’s traffic. On this visit I had also made use of the Silom Line, the MRT Subway, and the river taxis which all connect nicely. With the cities canal boats becoming fewer and fewer the Skytrain will for me be remembered as the modern channel through Bangkok.

Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 2.8 at 1/250th sec 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

Perched outside a Starbucks, hot macchiato in hand, Bangkok’s day passed by. Vendors on the street worked to feed the masses while I mulled over how to spend my last two days in Thailand. The thunder would continue to roll as “J” readied to make the last night a memorable one. I thought of the places I had visited and how I had portrayed them in my daily accounts. I have yet to strike the first key on the final submission and that was on my mind as well. Foremost on my mind was the fact that my visit was winding down and I would soon be leaving the land of smiles. Packing the camera in the bag I closed it for the last time and headed back to the room. I had all the images I needed for this trip and would write the final two submissions in Korea. For the time being I would be busy as I still had “One Night in Bangkok” and… you know how the song goes.

January 25th, 2012

The weight of my Kata 3N1 Pro-35PL backpack loaded with camera, lenses, Mac book and other treasures grew heavier as I marched up Soi 63 to the new Bourbon Street Restaurant. Following directions posted in a recent column by a man they call “Stick” I easily found the restaurants new location. With my flight later that evening I had checked out of the hotel, left my other bag with the bellhop and headed out to chase down a few errands. The next morning I would land in Seoul ending another memorable trip to the Kingdom. Discovering new skills while relaxing and having fun were my goals on this outing, which I had easily achieved. I had played hard right up through the last night and didn’t regret a single minute of the trip.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 70-200mm f2.8 L USM; f 7.1 at 1/800th sec 200mm (320mm equivalent) ISO 200

(On a monopod)

Thailand, with it’s varied regions has much to offer to anyone interested enough to stop and have a look. I believe many who visit the kingdom see only the outer layer but fail to see that when you peal the layers back you discover and experience the true Thailand.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/125th sec 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 800

(On a monopod)

There are many ways a traveler can explore the country. In Bangkok where the rivers and canals provide transportation and irrigation to the local citizens they also offer an interesting perspective to an outsider.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 5.6 at 1/1000th sec 52mm (83.2mm equivalent) ISO 200

(On a monopod)

In the south the beaches, boats and signature cliffs of Krabi will always be a favorite destination of mine, be it in person or through the many images captured there. I see Krabi as a natural garden of landscapes where new images forever emerge from the untilled terrain of yesterdays captures.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 8 at 1/160th sec 63mm (100.8mm equivalent) ISO 200

(Handheld)

Only with future visits to Koh Phi Phi’s not quite Thai atmosphere and Phuket’s changing nightlife can the fate of these destinations be defined. For now partiers will revel while entrepreneurs reap their harvest. May the seeds of their success not taint the very soil they insatiably cultivate.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM; f 11 at 1/640th sec 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 400

(Handheld)

Returning to Bangkok’s streets with its grand temples, constant activity and never ending list of things to do capped off a great vacation. The Thai people were as brilliant as their smiles and as warm as their hearts. The good, the bad and the ugly all make Thailand what it is and without them it would just be another beach full of sunbathing buffoons. Thank you Thailand for being you.

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Canon EOS Rebel Ti2; EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM; f 9 at 1/60th sec 19mm (30.4mm equivalent) ISO 100

(On a monopod)

I will end with an image of the setting sun, as it was sure to have set in similar fashion as I departed. I’ve been lucky to share my travels and look forward to returning to do it again. My heartfelt appreciations go out to Steve for the opportunity, advice and lessons. Until next time, to everyone I say, “kaw hai sanuk” (have fun) with all that you do.

Big Joe, out.

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BigJoe – This is one of the best trip reports on Thailand I've ever seen. What a great job! And it was fun watching your photography improve as your vacation wore on. Thank you so much. BkkSteve

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Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones *menu

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Introduction

Something you probably didn’t know about me was that for many years I’ve been somewhat of an audiophile. I’m one of those people who greatly enjoy accurately reproduced music and I’m willing to pay a reasonable amount for high quality audio products. What sets me apart from the traditional audiophile is my personal requirement of “reasonable” cost. I won’t tell you it’s silly to spend as much for an earphone set as you might for a new car, but I will take the position that relatively few will do so.

Unrestricted audiophiles will spent an extreme amount of money to have the very best performance/experience. More power to them. They want 100% of the possible performance and cost be damned. Normal consumers want to pay 1% of the cost for 50% of the performance. Because I love music and because like most people I live on a budget, it makes far more sense, to me, to spend 5% of the cost for a product that gives you 99% of the performance. This I’m willing to do.

Headphones or speakers are the final interface to your ears, so this would be the place to spend a bit extra if the reward is a much greater listening experience.

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While I do enjoy MP3 music players I’m not of “the Ipod generation.” But my 18 year old son is. MP3 players have been affordable most of his young life and as such he’s developed a keen appreciation for Apple Ipods, and then his Apple Itouch, and quality headphones go hand in hand with a quality MP3 player.

Knowing he appreciates such quality I purchased a pair of Klipsch S4 Image In Ear Headphones for his birthday several years ago. I’d researched what was available, read a ton of reviews, and because they weren’t available locally I finally made the decision to order them via Amazon. Unfortunately he left his Ipod and S4 headphones in the seatback of a 747 shortly thereafter. Since that time he’s mentioned several times how great these headphones were and how much he misses them. He’s had 7-8 different headphones since, but the Klipsch Image S4’s are always mentioned as a superior sound.

Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones

Something strange happened. While the product cycle of most headphones can be measured in months, the legend of the Klipsch Image S4’s continued to bloom. CNET and other reviewers are on record citing the S4’s as the “headphone value of the decade” and they’re raved about across the web. During the two years since they first came on the market they’ve become even more popular and even a standard. I went back on Amazon and ordered him a second set for this last Christmas.

All this talk about the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones had peaked my interest so I asked my son to borrow them for an evaluation. I have a set of reference Shure headphones and a drawer full of other headphones which have come with other devices, and I wanted to compare them.

The first thing you notice is the smooth piano black finish with the silver “Klipsch” name and the oval shaped clear silicone ‘tip’ that goes in your ear. The cable is very thin. I have mixed feelings about such a thin cord. On one hand my son tells me a thin cable is ideal for jogging and other active use, but on the other I worry the longevity would be on the short side. My Shure Reference headphones have much more sturdy cables.

The ‘tips’ are oval shaped and come in three sizes to ensure a high level of sound isolation. They’re also washable. The thin cable is advertised as “anti-tangle.” Overall they’re an attractive headphone providing a feeling of quality.

Performance

The Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones are billed as a high performance headphone with superior noise isolation, a high level of accuracy, and an enhanced base suitable for modern music. They’ve even attached an “audiophile” tag which Klipsch doesn’t use lightly.

Armed with a Generation 4 Ipod with a wide selection of music tracks ranging from classical, pop, hip hop, country, and R&B I waited for an uninterrupted and quiet time and then settled in for my listening experience.

Frankly I expected to spend some time evaluating the sound of the S4’s and I didn’t expect them to approach the quality sound of my Shure Reference Headphones. Yet, the difference between the two was so profound I found it very easy to pick out their high and low points with ease. Still, I made notes and cycled through the different tracks with each headphone making my comparisons as meaningful as possible. I will admit the “drawer full” of other headphones of the like of stock Apple Ipod headphones, Sony, etc, etc, were so obviously inferior I didn’t spend more than a few minutes with each.

Quantifying sound, or rather putting music to words, is difficult to say the least, but I’ll give it my best try. The Shure Reference headphones are well known for two things. Price and accuracy. At over $300 a pair they’re expensive. And boy are they accurate. By accurate I mean they reproduce the musical tones as intended without “color” or enhancements of any type. I’ve used these for years and many long enjoyable sessions and have never found them anything but enjoyable.

So imagine my surprise when I almost immediately began enjoying the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones more! These do color the music though enhanced bass providing a rich full sound the Shure Reference Headphones can’t reproduce.

Here’s the thing. I prefer accurate headphones because every other “enhanced” headphone I’ve tried are not enhanced the way I enjoy. With my home stereo 7.1 setup I often enjoy enhanced sound fields such as a jazz hall, blues club, or a live concert hall depending on the music I’m enjoying. I can fine tune these sound fields to my satisfaction, so I’ll enjoy them as appropriate. Headphones you can’t really adjust other than to select a pre-made sound field from the Ipod menu.

From the moment I listened to the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones I thought “these are enhanced the way I would enhance them!” I love the full rich sound and tight but controlled bass. And I can’t believe these retail at only $79.99. I could easily live with these as my main set of headphones.

Summary

The Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones are a real bargain. When you see the $79 price tag you might think these are lower end performance headphones, but I encourage you to give them a listen. You’ll quickly find that while the price is very reasonable, the performance is first rate and equivalent to what you might expect from a set of headphones costing 3-5 times as much.

One of the three tip sets fit my ear canals perfectly and the thin cables were very comfortable and they even seemed to resist tangling, though I maintain my reservations concerning their longevity. The “tin” they come in work great for storage in a knapsack or suitcase. And the full rich sound speaks for itself.

Now I understand why this product is still on the market an amazing two years after it’s introduction and why the biggest review sites on the net are calling them the best bargain performance combination available. There are better MUCH more expensive headphones, and there are much less expensive headphones and they sound like it, but you’ll need to spend 3-5 times as much to find another headphone with a sound quality anywhere near the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones.

Photography News of Interest *menu

A site challenges you to replicate famous paintings into photographs. This is an interesting exercise. Give it a try.

An underwater photographer fights off a Great White Shark With His Camera! If this doesn’t justify the extra cost for a 1d series body I don’t know what does!

An Actor Was Shocked To See His Leg Amputated In an Advertisement. If it wasn’t for the subject matter this would be amusing. An actor posed for stock photographs which were later purchased by a firm who photoshopped off his leg and used it for a public service announcement. He was shocked to see these on billboards. I mean really, with all the health concerns couldn’t they have found an actual amputee?

Readers Submissions *menu

Hi Steve

Happy New Year to you and your family.

Thought you might find this article interesting.

Peter

News Story Link..

Stolen Camera Finder

Peter –

Thank you. I mentioned this service in the news area of the column last year some time and have watched with interest as stories like this started to surface. It's really great to have services like this.

Thank you!

Steve

Steve

Have you seen this NEX-5 firmware update Rel. 5 information?

I am not sure what it would do for me or if it is even worth downloading. Any comments?

I continue to search for the elusive "Critical Focus" with all the pictures taken. Having some success with the D5100 but somewhat disappointed with the Sony in this area.

Read most if not all your articles on the subject numerous times and still not fully able to take the next step up the ladder to nirvana.

Been trying the Lightroom 4 beta and see some nice improvements. Not sure I will really master it until one on one instruction becomes available.

Hope all is well and you are planning your summer return to BKK.

Rickster

Hi Rick –

No, I hadn’t seen it but I looked it up after you gave me the heads up and it appears to be significant in that it provides compatibility with the new LA-EA2 adapter for using Alpha lenses which includes phase detection AF (like a DSLR), some menu updates and functions related to phase detection autofocus, with MICRO ADJUST.. which just might be what you’re looking for to get that last bit of critical focus. Assuming you’re doing everything else right micro-adjusting your lens would be the icing on the cake.

The color peaking I’m not sure about.. I’ll have to use both and see.. see how far off if any my lenses are, and if color peaking provides more balance across the color channels.

http://www.docs.sony.com/release/NEX3-5_V5_manual_EN.pdf

Yes, as of this moment I’m planning on being in Bangkok from 6/20-7/20 roughly.

Let me know if you’re interested in a workshop.. we could probably clear up all your remaining issues and get you that critical focus and a higher level of competency in LR4 if you’re interested. I would recommend adding a DSLR (I’ll provide it if you’re not carrying one) to the mix so you can see the differences in real time.

Can you believe it has the nerve to snow here? Unbelievable! It’s 4pm and 15f and snowing.

Steve

I’d like to mention that everyone, myself included, is really enjoying the current trend of readers submissions. Everyone loves them, but remember we can really use more. I have only another week’s worth in my queue, so please take the time to put together a few images and words if you can and send them in. Thank you. [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

Hello Steve,

I'd like to know if you could tell me why the clouds in image "Samsonvale_Public_Hall_Set_01_HDR Efex Pro" are so distorted.
I've added the original files (reduced to jpg's) and also included a copy of the finished result from 2 other HDR programs.
I am trying Photomatix Pro at the moment, but it doesn't seem to produce the HDR effects that I am after!

What I find hard to understand is that sometimes HDR Efex Pro will give me perfect results and other times like the above, it fails miserably.
I have looked at a few VDO tutorials on both programs from the internet to try and see if it was me that wasn't using the setting properly, but even floowing them I still fail.

The second set titled "Shorncliffe_HDR_Set_01" have worked very well for me in HDR Efex Pro.

I have realised that night time HDR's are not working for me, so will leave them alone for now!

Charles

(Charles posted the image on a web gallery and it's now gone so only the text part of my answer is available. Please attach images to your email so I can keep them for record. Thank you)

Hi Charles –

Yes, the reason your clouds are distorted is because they’re probably moving about 100-200mph and during the time it takes you to capture multiple exposures they move just enough to give this effect. You’ll see this in water if there is any movement on the surface, and in the branches of trees if there’s wind. A very common problem. HDR is for ‘static’ subjects because anything that moves blows the picture.. and clouds, tree branches, water, and the more obvious move..

About the mixed results. Each image is different and sometimes a plugin will be set right on, but most of the time it will need to be adjusted. This is one of the reasons I like Photomatix, it’s “tone-mapping” requires your input with each image so you get used to making this adjustments.

Good luck with your practicing.

Take care

Steve

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Steve –

Wife and I spent most of the weekend in the local hills learning about and taking lots of pictures. She has made great progress learning how to use the Nikon D5100 with all the settings that are available. During our first session last week she was running about 25/75 good to bad. This week’s results were at least 80/20 good to bad. This is the result of her spending a lot of time with the Instruction book and trying the various options that are built into the camera. (This is a rick we take when we buy our wives cameras.. :))

She has always had a good eye for taking interesting and unusual pictures and the Nikon will really show what she can produce.
My improvement is another matter that has been hampered by various situations involving the NEX-5.


I am using the 18-200 mm lens and having problems getting it to focus each time I try for a shot. About 25%+ of the time it will not focus and I am forced to turn off the camera and then back on to start the focusing process. This is on a bright, sunny day where a quick focus should be easy.

So the question is, why the focus issue with the camera? Is it something I am doing or could there be a situation with the camera/lens. What drives the lens focus mechanism, where does the power come from? I am shooting using the Program Auto and Aperture Priority settings on the camera.

An area which seems to be working well is with the Aperture Priority setting on the camera. I have set the F-stop to F9 and let the ISO and shutter speeds adjust as needed. Results have been good with this setup as I switch between PA and AP on the camera.

There are a few questions that I would like your help with: (NEX-5)

  • I am using the 18-200 mm lens for most of the macro pictures. Would a better option be to use the 18-50 mm lens for macro pictures? What would you recommend?
  • When using the AF assistant (red light) it only stays on for appox. 1 sec. Is this normal? It seems that in the past it stayed lit for much long period.
  • My shots of flowers of all types are really good with one exception. The reds of roses and other flowers are always very vivid, mushy and not “clear”. Any suggestions?
  • The ease of turning on the video camera function when not wanted is a real pain. Just brush by it and it’s on. A real pain, oh well.
  • The inability to turn off the shutter sound when not wanted is also a real pain. Sony says that’s the way it is. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Rickster

Rick –

Good to hear from you again! That's a lot of questions so let's take them in order.

  • Most serious macro shooters prefer a longer focal length so they can be further from their subject and still fill the frame with subject. This allows them to not get in the light in some cases, not get stun by bees or scare away subjects in other cases, and more I’m sure you can imagine. Either lens technically will do fine, it depends on your subject to camera distance desired.
  • I’m not familiar with this one on the NEX-5.. but normally they stay on as long as you’re “in focus”, up to a max amount of time.. then they go off.
  • “Really good” and “very vivid, mushy, not clear” are not compatible.. are you saying they’re focused but the petals/body seems soft regardless? It sounds like the exposure is off, and white balance. White balance you can adjust in post processing with zero image degradation penalties.. but exposure you pay for.. so get it as correct as you can. Experiment with exposures and see if you can find one where you get the nice detail you’re after.
  • Place a piece of gaffers tape over any control you don’t need to move easily. You should see my cameras as I prepare for a wedding, they look like disasters with all the gaffers tape all over them to ensure I don’t move controls without realizing it.
  • I can tell you how to turn off the sound permanently.. I’ve done this.. a dremel tool meets piezoelectric speaker works wonders.. otherwise hope Sony listens and makes a firmware mod. Gaffers tape will muffle the shutter sound quite a bit.. try 2-3 pieces until you get the level you’re after.

I hope this helped.


Steve

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Steve –

I recently wrote to Nikon asking about using AF Illuminator on the D5100.

Below find their response to my question. Is this standard on all cameras that have both a view finder and a LCD/live view capability?

The only other feature on the D5100 that causes problems is when using the camera indoors on "AUTO" setting. When taking pictures with flash the wife's shots all come out with a lot of noise.

I am finding that all these pictures are 1/60 sec(or less), F4, and ISO 3200. This is the cause of the noise as I see it.

Using my NEX-5 and other pocket cameras in the same environment, with flash, the results are very different. Most of them come out at ISO 1600 or less with little if any noise.

What do you think is causing the high ISO setting on the D5100?

We are working her towards using the "P" settings on all photos.

Thanks as always.
Rickster

Rick –

Good questions. Below are my answers.

  • Yes. When using the viewfinder you’re using a different type of AF system than when using liveview. I’m not sure why they couldn’t tell you that in the response.. but it sucks that they didn’t.
  • I’m not sure about the D5100, but many DSLR’s allow you to set limits on certain auto functions like “Auto ISO” and “Auto” exposure. In that you can set the min/max ISO and shutter speeds. They usually ‘default’ to a high ISO because then your flash works at longer distances and uses less power and recycles faster at shorter distances. Or in other words, it makes your camera more “capable’ in certain situations. (but suck in others)..
  • Look for these limits and see change the ISO to 1600 and the shutter speed to 1/60th. If the pictures then have acceptable noise but are a bit blurry, set the limit of the shutter speed to a faster speed like 1/90th or /1200th. Your built-in flash will have enough power for these settings in a regular sized room, but not in an open outdoor environment where more reach is needed.
Take care Rick..

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 Month in Review *menu

Life in the Midwest continues with the warmest winter (or so I'm told) in decades. I enjoy the cool days but I could do with more sun. We continue to adjust, my son attends university, and I'm looking forward to my next visit to Thailand which I hope to be towards the latter half of June.

Because of a family emergency and subsequent death in the family I was unable to make it back to Thailand in January as originally planned. I won't be saying more than this. But I will be talking about a trip I'm in the first stages of planning which wold put me in Thailand towards the last week in June through the third week in July. Please let me know if you would like to take a workshop and we'll pencil you in.

I'm working on several projects at the moment including promotional images and material for a local band, and environmental portraits for several customers.

Infocus Blog, Thailand Photo Storys by Dana *menu

PITY THE POOR GIRL

Recently I made a trip to Ko Larn off Pattaya. I like boats and I like maritime environments and I like beach trips and I like the geography of the island. It is all good. I used to use Anna the tour director in the lobby of the A.A. Hotel to book trips for me at about 600 baht. Parasailing opportunities were included, more boat trips were part of the package, and you got lunch served on the beach. But then I discovered that for only 20 baht I could take the public ferry. Boy oh boy, what a big difference in price. Money that could be spent foolishly in some other trivial tourist way. Anyway, recently I made a day trip to Ko Larn.

I am a nut about punctuality so I always get to everything early. So I am on the ferry early waiting for it to leave. What to do? Well, I do the same thing everyone else does in situations like this. I sit and look at all the other people. There is a couple. A foreign male and a Thai female. He is attentive and obviously smitten and she is charming and very attractive. He has a camera. You can guess the rest. He is taking picture after picture after picture of her. Pictures of her leaning on the rail of the boat, pictures of her looking for something in her bag, pictures of her with and without sunglasses, pictures of her . . . picture after picture after picture. I pity the poor girl. I want to scream at him to just stop. Give it a rest. Give her a break. Grab the reins. But of course only she can control him. She needs to put her hand on his arm, and look him in the eye, and say:

"That's enough pictures for now."

But she does not do that. It takes 45 minutes to get to the island and he takes pictures of her for 45 minutes. Of course this public display of love and attention makes me feel slightly superior. I would never behave that foolishly. I would never abuse the poor girl by taking so many pictures, and I am not so needy that I cannot go anywhere without a stupid camera. It's a beach and boating day. Just relax. I admit I have, sometimes regarding some things, a borderline rant personality. This abuse of nice ladies, or worse, this boring of nice ladies with all this compulsive picture taking kind of drives me crazy. This young attractive Thai lady has probably had to endure this nonsense since she was sixteen years old. She must be bored and irritated. And her boyfriend isn't winning any points. How many pictures of this girl is he going to take? A thousand pictures? A million pictures? A million million pictures? I keep my mouth shut.

While negotiating with the mother and the son across the street from the boat landing that I use to give me motorbike trips, a female Thai tourist in their store hears the conversation. She interrupts. She would like to know how to get to the beaches, etc. Could I help her? We end up being taken to the beach together by the mother and the son. She rides on the back with the big son. And I ride on the back with the big mother. We swim together. We buy ice creams. We have lunch. We lay side by side on the lounge chairs and talk. We walk on the beach. She shops for clothes. We . . . I am so dizzy from being with her that if you took your finger and pushed against my chest I would just fall over.

I wished I had a camera. I would have taken a million million pictures of her.

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