Simple Life (One island, one family)

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 640 18mm Canon M3

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 640 18mm Canon M3

While staying on Koh Chang (Thailand) I had taken a small boat and traveled out to some of the surrounding small islands. Koh Wai is one of the larger of the small islands and there really is not a whole lot on the island. However if you travel around to the south side of the island there is a beautiful lagoon located at Latitude:11.89815 Longitude:102.40552 (see map link below).

There is a man who lives at the lagoon with his wife and son. I had visited with him in 2014 and we traveled back to visit with him again this year. We found him pretty much the same as when we last seen him, although now more snorkel boats come into the lagoon and that I personally did not care to see. But for him it means more business, he sell fresh coconut water to the boaters who come and stay a while on his well-groomed beach. I had a chance to photograph is simple homestead as he invited my wife and I up to his home, something most people would never really get to do. The house is located about 100 meters from the beach area, you can see it from the beach. Also my boat driver is very good friends with the man, he brings him supplies from time to time and also brings snacks for Tula the man’s 5-year-old son.

It truly is interesting to see how this man lives, because many times we have all had that dream of “living in an island” and not having to deal with the outside world. …and that is exactly what this man does everyday.

Stay tuned and I will do a more in-depth post about my visit to this lagoon. It was very interesting and you’d be surprised what I found about his son’s behavior… being isolated and the only child on the island.

Thanks for reading and check out my Thailand video series on my Youtube channel.

YouTube Koh Kai

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Koh+Chang/@11.8980418,102.4052624,239m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x310416b31770cc1f:0xdfd424b9e3ad2a9!8m2!3d12.0479159!4d102.3234816

 

Old Coffee Shop (Here we see a sepia toned image that takes on the feel of another day and time. )

Coffee Shop 1/100 sec at f/3.2 ISO 400 B&W conversion via Silver Efex Pro 2

Coffee Shop 1/100 sec at f/3.2 ISO 400 B&W conversion via Silver Efex Pro 2

It was a beautiful morning I was up early and out at 5:00am. I’m lucky enough to live close to the small city of Lambertville and when the light and weather is good I’ll get out early and capture a few shots of interesting buildings or people.

Here we see a sepia toned image that takes on the feel of another day and time. This is one of the things that attract people to this town. I say “one of the things” because the little city has changed with the times; it was once a working town with industry and music attractions. But as the times have changes so did the city. Long gone is the music circus and the luggage factory along with the hobby store and little eateries, bike shop ect… In their place are now antique shops and art galleries. Long gone are the little old cozy neighborhoods and the working class people and in their place is artsy shops and hipsters. Not that it is a bad thing it is just different. Plus it all makes for great photography.

A Glimpse of Thailand (She is in the middle of pouring water and sees a big caucasian…)

Issan Family 1/320 sec at f/4.0 ISO 400 24mm

I was reminiscing about Thailand this morning and thinking about my plans when I arrive there this November. Everytime I go back to Thailand I plan little photo adventures. Most people would word that last sentence “when I visit Thailand.” However for me it is a home because my wife is Thai and we have a house there. So it is a home of sorts, just at this time I’m not there too much.

 

So many times I will take a trip down memory lane and just go through my images of past trips. This image is one that has always caught my heart and my eye, it resonates Issan country life . Today I worked up a black & white edit, but I have in the past edited this image in a colorized version. I don’t know who they are and I only have a general idea of where the images was captured. I was a passenger on a motorbike and I was shooting video and stills while traveling around Kalasin province. I had (at that time) my Canon T1i with an 18-55mm kit lens. Settings were 1/320 sec at f/4.0 ISO 400, captured at 3:17pm on 11/1/2009.

 

Everytime I’m in Thailand I will shoot a lot, but there will only be a handful of images that really reach out to me and say to me “This is Thailand.” Now of course I have to say that it is “in my opinion” because I think everybody forms their own opinion of likes and dislikes about anything beit person place or object. In the past you may have seen my image of the dogs sleeping in the street and that too is an image that speaks “this is Thailand.” In fact I have a friend who claims “there is a dog on every road in Thailand” and I laugh because that is most likely true.

 

So here we find a family eating in a true Thai Issan style setting. Because I was moving along at a decent speed I fired a 4 burst shot and this shot was not only the cleanest but also the framing was good. Now I will say I have cropped the image a little bit, but that cropping was really the hardest part of this edit. I wanted to be able to show the viewer the little girl’s face. She is in the middle of pouring water and sees a big caucasian guy on the back of a motorbike with a camera. She just happened to look up at the very moment I was whisking  by and I got a nice shot, all the while she never misses pouring her water. Although the image is of Asian culture if it were American it could have fit into the pages of Robert Frank’s iconic book “The Americans.”

 

I made today’s edit a black & white to go with a “street photography” feel, however I still hold true to the claim that Thailand is best viewed in color because it is such a colorful country and the people as a whole are so kind and warm. They make the mantra “Land of Smiles” really come to life.

Thank you for reading and until next time have a great day.

Back To 1987 Canon EOS 650 Film Body (Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. )

Jake just chillin' Canon 650 film body, 70-200mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Kodak Tri-Max 100 B&W

Jake just chillin’
Canon 650 film body, 70-200mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Kodak Tri-Max 100 B&W

It’s not about whether digital is better than film, but rather it is about the fun of shooting with film. The fun and the challenge, sure I think anyone who ever picked up an SLR and shot film, and then switched over to digital will agree “digital” is easier and more forgiving. So if you are struggling starting off with a DSLR you have no idea what it was like shooting film. Now don’t get me wrong I am not one of those bitter film guys who tells the tales from back in the day about how hard film was. How you had to “walk ten miles uphill both ways in the blinding snow to process your film.” Of course I am kidding and yes film was a challenge and I think that is what I miss a little bit about my personal photography. Now please know when I was shooting film I was strictly an armature and I was not that great of a photographer at all.

So I have found that revisiting film cameras is fun and challenging and nostalgic of course. It is kind of like getting into and old car and taking a ride down a back road. And just like old cars are not a 100% old, after all some will have a few newer things to make life a little easier, like modern tires for a smoother ride, same is true with the film cameras. We can scan our film and tweak with Photoshop or other software. But we soon come back to our digital world, take a deep breath and relax. However there could be something to be gained by stepping back into the days of darkrooms and film canisters.

So in this image of my Pug “Jake” I was using a Canon EOS 650 (film) body (1987). I have two of these bodies and I’ll usually put ISO 100 in one and ISO 400 or 800 in the other. I’ll switch between a 50mm f/1.4 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. On this day I was using Kodak T-Max 100 B&W 36 exposure. This image has very minimal processing. It is a hi-res scan and in Lightroom I pushed the white balance temp 9+ to give a slightly warm (yellowish) tint. I love it, and one of the things that film photographers loved about their film was “grain.” Grain could be found a few different ways. There was ISO grain and there was grain found in the many different papers used for printing. Now if we wanted we could talk about “film grain” to the year’s end and still not cover all there is to talk about. But grain is what I miss. It is so funny that we (as digital photographers) are always searching for the holy grail of shooting high ISO and trying to eliminate “noise.” We want the cleanest possible images, when back in the day it was acceptable to have some noise or grain. Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. It really is funny how if you look in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop there are controls to add grain. Sure I have added grain to my composite images many times. Why? You may ask. To give a feel, to create mood and character. So now I ask myself why am I not doing this more with regular images. Huh… good question. I wanted to revisit film for fun and a challenge and it looks like I learned something more about what could be lacking in my digital. I like most love the clean images that digital produces, but that clean could be taking something away. Kind of like cooking on a gas grill vs a charcoal or wood fired grill. They both cook the food, but the taste of the wood adds flavor while the gas just cooks… and is cleaner.

Till next time.

Google Makes Nik a Free Download (…for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow”)

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

As many photographers may have heard Google has just made the Nik Collection a “free” download. Many photographers already know about the Nik plugins, however I personally have met many photographers who never heard of Nik plugins, even after Google acquired the Nik collection from Nik. I guess I was naïve to have thought everybody knew what they were. I have been using Nik for many years now. I had purchased Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik and then after Google acquired them one day out of the clear blue I received an email from Google giving me a link to download the whole collection and this in turn moved me up to Color Efex Pro 4. Google stated because I was a current Nik Customer they were dishing out the love and it really was a beautiful day for sure.

Now real quick for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow” especially Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.

I fell in love with Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) for making black & white conversions. Although I have several methods for making B&W images SEP2 is by far the best and most creative. I love my color images, but at the same time I can get lost in playing with SEP2. Most important to me when working with images that have a face, is being able to see the zone mapping so I can apply my personal recipe for zone mapping human skin. I’m not going to go into all the details about the zone system, but for those who know about Ansel Adam’s zone system… well you know what I’m talking about.

Most important (in my opinion) is that if you want to create amazing black & whites you need to first create a great color image and then move into SEP2. So for those of you who have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you need to get these plugins and get started learning how to use them. For me… if you asked me to choose one tool or plugin for Photoshop and nothing else. Hands down the Nik collection would be my choice, mainly Color Efex Pro.

Another source that increased my wanting for using SEP2 was famed photographer Vincent Versace’s book “From Oz to Kansas” but you must first read “Welcome to Oz” because it is all about making cinematic edits that can stop at being beautiful color images or… move to the next book “From Oz to Kansas” and that is taking those awesome color edits and moving to black& white. The books truly are worth reading, however so many people I meet who want to call themselves a “photographer” want instant gratification and reading a book is just too much trouble, or so it seems. Sometimes I will mention that I learned “this or that” technique from a book I read and I get looked at like I have two heads.  I want to be the best photographer I can be and when I look at anybody who has ever succeeded at anything I many times see people who know their craft inside and out and many will tell you that part of knowing your craft is studying the people who have traveled the road before you. When you think about it it’s a “no brainer,” but seems many have no brains. Every photographer out there in this big ole world wants better images and the Nik collection will get you closer to that holy grail, but do yourself a favor and read a book or take a class that is written or taught by a true master of the trade/art. Fuck those stupid Facebook advertisements and find somebody who is a master. I live in NYC/Philly area and when I know Joe McNally or Cliff Mautner or Lindsay Adler are in town speaking or teaching… well you bet your last dollar I’m gonna be there. And those are just a few of the masters photography has to offer.

So down load the Nik collection from Google and let your creativity move of to the next level. I did!

Dark Days (when the creative light weakens)

Dark Days make you create what you feel.

Sometimes you just create what you feel… literally. Mood is the major factor in “what, when and how” most people are able to create. Stresses (or the lack of) from the outside world help set the tone or kill the creative spirit all together. Internal stresses are just as incriminating because we all know demons never sleep and they rarely take a day off. But for the strong healthy minds and souls demons are kept at bay, although there are those times we let our guard down and the demon within will rise up unexpectedly and quell your ability to create.

For me right now it is the outside stresses of the world that have all but extinguished my creative fire. You cannot control your outside world. We try to and we feel we can, but as we all know life can really come down on you sometimes and like a rainstorm it can be hard, real hard and when it’s real hard and you’re hurting from the rain… it gets even harder and yet again harder.  You feel as though you’ve done something to make God angry with you. When in reality you really cannot complain. For if you wake up breathing with two good eyes, legs, feet, hands and arms your still in the game. You just need to be stronger. Love the most those who love you back. Most of all love God and yourself.

I could list my problems and try to invoke drama but my problems are mine to solve. After all what is life? Just one problem after another, they key is to “solve the problem at hand and wait for the next one.”

Photo of The Day (breaking records all the time)

Nixlot Dameus Weightlifter/Bodybuilder

Nixlot Dameus Weightlifter/Bodybuilder

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time to post to my blog. So here is a B&W of Nixlot Dameus record-breaking powerlifter and body builder.