Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand (…everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood…)

On my 2019 trip to Thailand I had a chance to capture some video of a pig roast in a local village. Although the video is not of professional quality it does show a very interesting way to roast a whole pig and I really thought the process from beginning to end was interesting & amazing.

So, this blog post will actually appear in two places, it will be posted to my photography blog and it will also be on my BBQ blog. I am a professional barbeque chef going into my 24th year of business and I have been a working photographer for about 10 years as well.

Let me first give you the setup of this story and before you click on the video, I will tell you it is not a short video. Personally, I don’t like short videos when it comes to something like this, I want to see everything that is going on… or at least as much as possible. Today we live in a world of short attention spans and instant gratification however I’m an old school dinosaur and my video is a bit longer.

Thai Pig Roast

I am married to a wonderful Thai lady and I promised her before we were married that every year, she would travel back to Thailand to be with family and friends. Myself, I try to go as often as my budget will allow, usually every other year. Sadly, it had been three years since I had been to Thailand. So, I decided 2019 was a “must do” year for Thailand and I would stay for the full 30 days of my visa. I spent 11 on Kho Kood (island) and then I traveled by pickup truck from the boat dock at Trat all the way to Ban Kamin (village) in the Kalasin Province. It was an epic trip and took a lot longer than planned due to poor planning on my wife’s part and too much stopping along the way. But we had fun.

So, after an epic 26 hours without sleep I arrived in the village around 8:00am on November 30, 2019. My Thai family was extremely excited of me coming to visit and that I would be staying for two weeks. I love my Thai family so much, they are all just the most awesome, kind and caring people, I truly am blessed to have them all in my life.

After arriving in the morning and meeting with some family members I put my things in my room and started to unpack camera gear. Quickly, I ran out of energy and tried to sleep a little. It is very hard for me to sleep when the sun is up, even if I am tired. So, I just gave up on the quest to sleep and started drinking coffee in hopes to some how salvage the day and be a bit productive. I don’t speak very much Thai although I usually understand what is going on around me. I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house although my wife’s little house is just around the corner. We could not stay at our house because the toilet was not working (due to lack of use).

I walked outside about 10:30am and Mi had just arrived back from Kalasin City (about 20 minutes away) with a small pig. I first thought it would-be put-on ice for cooking later… I was dead wrong because he went right to work preparing this pig for roasting and to eat later that night. It was at this time I realized that they (the family) were planning a big meal in honor of my arrival and I was really taken back by this. I have been part of this family for ten years now and it seems like the love only grows stronger every year.

So, when I see the pig, I ran quickly to grab a camera, I had several cameras with me from small to large, from simple to complex. I wished I had known there was going to be this pig roast and I would have certainly been more prepared. I really would have liked to shot the scenes on the Blackmagic 6K camera. But, the Blackmagic 6K takes time to setup and assemble sadly, I had broken down the setup to make it easier to travel. Being tired when I first arrived, I figured I would assemble the Blackmagic the next day when my mind was fresh. So, I was left with the DJI Osmo Action camera. I had never owned and action camera and I kind of thought “it might be a good time” to buy one seeing’s as how I would be traveling to Thailand and all.  So, out the door I go to the side of the house where they are preparing the pig, all the while I am not even thinking about how they will cook the pig. Well, that question was soon answered when I seen Mi start to prepare a spot right there in the dirt next to the driveway. Instead of asking questions I just stood off to the side and watched everything that was going on. I started to record video of anything that I thought would be an important step in what he was doing. I might also mention Mi works at the University in Kalasin City. It is an agricultural University and he takes care of the livestock in the Swine division. Needless to say “this guy knows all things about pigs.”

He was a “man with a plan” and I could tell this was not his first time roasting a pig. Actually, I had heard and seen pictures of him roasting pigs and my wife had said that someday they would cook a pig while I was in the village… and today was that day. Mi had already prepared some sort of a marinade of sorts. I could tell be the smell it had garlic and lemon grass in it but, I also knew there was so much more. He used a strainer to separate the mushy herbs from the liquid. Mi soon recruited his teenage son and another young male family member to help with injecting the marinade while he moved on to preparing the cooking location. After marinade injecting was done everybody was working on constructing the roasting oven. I found this to be quite interesting. It was nothing more that a rectangle box made from corrugated tin roofing. It looked very odd and make-shift but, not all that unfamiliar. I had actually seen something very similar here in the USA about 30 years ago when I had attended a pig roast at a local Rod & Gun club here in Hunterdon County New Jersey.

(side story) It was really kind of funny because I go (as a customer) to this local public pig roast that was a yearly event at the local Rod & Gun Club and there were three old timers cooking three pigs, each was cooking his pig a different way and all three pigs were huge about 200 lbs. One old guy had constructed a little “hut” of sorts, made from tin roofing. The coals were directly on the ground and the pig had been cooking since the day before. He would remove a few pieces of the tin and hack away at the meat until he seen bloody meat, then he would replace the tin and keep cooking. This all took place about four years before I started my own pig roasting business and I always used this memory as a benchmark of “how not to cook a pig.” Ironically enough earlier this year that Rod & Gun Club hired my business to do their yearly pig roast. The old timers are long since gone and it was time to move on to a better way of cooking pigs.

Now back to Thailand… He I see Mi is constructing a similar tin roof cooker but somehow, I just know this tin roof oven is going to work just fine. First off, the pig is a lot smaller and I know Mi has done this many times. Once it was finished, I could see the dynamics of how it would work. It was a box with heat in the bottom, a lid to keep the heat in and the pig would be rotated above the heat source. And the heat source would be hardwood charcoal. It doesn’t really take a lot of fire to cook a pig if the oven is closed, too much heat the pig will cook too quick on the outside and not be done on the inside. So, soon the oven was finished and the pig was cooking. The pig actually went on the fire at 12:45pm and I knew it would several hours of slow cooking. Now my eyes were getting heavy and the heat of the day plus the lack of sleep were all taking their toll on my body, it was time to get some much-needed rest. I found my way to the little “couch” as they called it. Actually, it was a small “loveseat” but in this Thai village they were calling it a couch. I knew when nightfall came my wife would prepare Thai pillows on the floor as an actual bed but for now, I had to make this loveseat work. Impossible? Nothing is impossible when you have been awake for 30+ hours. I slept on the loveseat for 4 hours, a small fan on the floor blowing a gentle breeze my way and when I awoke, I was a new man. It was the best 4 hours of sleep and somehow, I found that little loveseat to be very comfortable.

November days are short, I wake about 5:00pm and it is dark already. I can hear lots of voices coming from the back of the house and I slowly make my way back there. As I step out, I see lots of food being prepared… what a relief because this means I have not really missed any of the fun. And how about that pig?… I already had my camera in hand as I walked towards the pig. Nobody was around, everybody was in the back of the house so I just stood there and looked at the tin roof oven. The aroma coming from the roasting pig was amazing, the garlic and lemon grass… as they say in Thai sap sap.

Around 6:00pm the lid came ff the pig. It was done and it looked so good. But it had to wait because we were waiting for other family members to arrive. Not everybody had the day off work and the ones we were waiting for are some of my most favorites people to be with. Soon everyone was there and it was time to eat. Eating with my Thai family is a joy beyond compare to anything I would do in the USA. First of all everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood when my family would all sit and eat dinner together… it seems like a dream when I think about how different times were here in the USA when most all families spent time together on a daily basis. With my Thai family it is still that way, we are all together and there is always lots of talking and the mood is always good.

Oh, and that pig… It was cooked to perfection. The taste was out of this world. The skin wasn’t super crispy but it was editable. The meat was over the top delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it and that is really saying something because, while I cook pigs for a living, I rarely eat a lot of pork. I will eat from the pigs I cook at a party but, it is usually just a few little pieces. With Mi’s pig I could have just kept eating… and made a pig of myself lol.

So, there you have it a pig roast in my honor, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family in Thailand, I love them all so much.

Thai Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand from Lenzwizard on Vimeo.

Love at 1/2000 of a second in the land of smiles.

This is probably one of my most favorite photos of my current trip to Thailand. Actually it could be one of my most favorite Thai photos of all time. Like all photos there’s a back story and this one is very heartwarming.

The backstory starts with me first telling you how wonderfully treated Americans are here in Thailand. Now of course when you’re in the tourist area everyone is treated nice because… you’re in a tourist area of course. However once I venture out into heartland of the country the smiles and the hospitality are amazing.

I spent the day traveling with family far away from the village, about a two-hour Journey. We were going to see a few different locations where I could fly my drone and capture some wonderful photography. For the first half of the journey I rode in the front seat of the pickup truck taking in all the sights along the way. But as we got ready to turn around and head back I decided to ride in the back of the pickup truck. Riding in the back of the pickup truck allows me to take in the sights but at the same time it allows me to capture a lot of nice candid photos as we’re traveling.

This sounds like fun and actually it is a lot of fun but as a photographer it’s not the easiest thing to do. As a photographer we just want to be able to steady our camera and get a nice shot. riding in the back of a pickup truck is not smooth by any means. The camera settings are very important most of all the shutter speed. You want to be able to capture a photo in an instant. So while riding in the back of the truck I usually keep my shutter speed set to a constant 1/2000 of a second. Even still the photos are not going to be perfect however you are going to capture that moment instantly.

So for this photo I’m riding in the back of the truck and the backstory is how attentive some people are at what is happening around them. Sure I’m the photographer and I’m constantly turning my head to see what’s going on around me. I’m riding down the road I don’t know exactly how fast we’re going and if you’re the passerby you’re not going to see me until the truck has gone by and you look in the back of the truck.

So as I’m whizzing by this roadside market area, this lady looks up and in a Split Second she sees me and she gets a huge smile on her face and gives me the okay sign. I only captured one frame before she was out of sight. But in that one frame I caught the heartwarming happiness and the huge smile of somebody who is happy to have their photo taken. Think about it, in just that Split Second she looks up and identifies a Caucasian guy sitting in the back of a truck with a camera. And that expression on her face truly is the feeling that I feel just about everywhere I travel in this wonderful country called Thailand. For many of my friends I know you will never feel the joy of coming to this land of Many Wonders and smiles. And for those of my friends who have already been here many of them often overlooked the true beauty of this country and the people within it. There’s so much that I could say about the feeling that I get when I travel through this country. Someday I know I will complete my Photography book about Thailand, I started the project several years ago and the biggest problem I have is deciding which photos to include in the book. However I do believe I have found the cover photo for the book. My only regret is that I would never be able to find this lady and thank her for her wonderful smile.

Many people come to Thailand and take photos of all the beautiful temples and other scenery. I have to say I like those photos to but, the most important photos to me are the faces of the people and their everyday life.

Note: I still yet have to go through my GPS log to identify the location where this was taken.

Bored Senseless (But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress…)

1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm

So I am often asked many questions about a photo after I post it or someone sees it when I’m showing a slide show. If it is a slide show the comment starts with “whoa can you go back to that photo” but there are many other questions that follow, such as; “where was this shot, how did you get this shot” and many more. Many times people who were with me at the time I captured the image ask the same questions. And when they find out it was captured while they were there perplexes them because they have no memory of me taking the photograph nor do they remember the subject in the photograph. Case in point is this image of the man bushing the bicycle in the streets of the village Hua Ngua, Kalasin Province, Thailand. My wife was there however she has no recollection of me capturing the image.

So the back story is I was bored senseless as many a husband is while waiting for your wife to shop. The day started with me going somewhere to have fun with photography, traveling to local temples and other places just to have fun shooting. But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress in a small village mattress shop. Of course I had the camera in hand and I just stood along the side of the street shooting whatever went by. It was that easy. Main thing is “always have your cameras with you and ready.” Now that does not mean to walk around bothering people with a camera, in this case I had the camera in the vehicle and because I was bored out of my wits I grabbed the camera in hopes of shooting something… anything. I was at a mattress shop and that was about as exciting and as fun as a heart attack. Matter-of-fact I started by saying to myself that “there has to be something interesting to shoot in the mattress shop… there wasn’t… I tried. Now if I cannot get at least one interesting shot then I think it’s fair to say… well I think you can see by now how bored I was. Bored enough to photograph a farmer pushing a bicycle carrying what looks like weeds up a street. However it is an interesting photo or at least I think so. At I think it is least interesting enough to put in my book of street photography from Thailand.

Now for all the camera geeks the technical info; Shot on a Canon 6D with a 24-105mm f/4L 1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm. Edited in Photoshop CC 2017 using a “multiply” layer on top of a normal layer, converted to a smart object, shadows brightened with a camera raw filter and then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 adding Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and then back to Lightroom for a small amount of sharpening and watermark applied. Output to JEPG.

 

 

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

 

Heading Off To Thailand (…After 17 years it might be time to move on.)

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I will be heading off to Thailand on November 23rd and staying for 24 days. While the focus of my trip will be to spend time with my family and to take care of personal affairs I will spend time on photography. My wife being a Thai lady still has a small house in Thailand and she travels back every year. Myself while I would love to travel there every year and stay for six months, at this time in my life I cannot do that. So I have been on an “every other year” schedule. Most people who know me personally know that besides photography I also have a catering business and I drive school bus for the local district. While I really like driving a school bus, this year they are denying my 15 day “unpaid” leave of absence due to being shorthanded for sub-drivers. Well… while I understand their situation “that is not my problem that is theirs.” Simply put… “I think it is time to re-think the bus driving job” and possibly call it a memory. After 17 years it might be time to move on.

So with all that said; yes I will visit Ko Chang in the Gulf of Thailand, I will spend time around Bangkok and most of all I will be up in the farmland of the Kalasin province. I will visit my favorite food shops and roadside chicken BBQ places. When I mention traveling to Thailand to people, most often the reaction is either “wow Thailand I would like to go there.” Or it is “Oh yeah I love Thailand.” Either way I have never gotten a bad reaction. But at the same time both of those reactions are based on the idea of travel and vacation and rightfully so because many people from all over the world like to travel to Thailand for “holiday” as the rest of the world refers to “vacation” as “holiday.”

However for me it never really seems like a vacation or holiday in the traditional way and I think that is because there is family there. Example; most Americans who travel to Hawaii never see family there; they go for the “get away.” For me Thailand has become a place where I will live for 24 days and in the future it will be longer. I will be with family and friends and I will visit familiar places and some days just hang out in the village and stay around the house. Now of course I will seek out new places that I have never been before and I will take some day trips, but just being with my family there is what makes me the most happy. Sure we see each other all the time on Skype or Facebook messenger but it’s that act of sitting together and having dinner or lunch or just going shopping.

As for photography I know there is always something interesting just waiting to be captured. Being up in the farmland is such a great feeling… I can’t wait.

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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.

Photo of The Day (It doesn’t always come easy)

7 Bracket HDR at f/16 ISO 50 40mm

7 Bracket HDR at f/16 ISO 50 40mm

Here we see a replica Sanphet Maha Prasat temple. This replica is located at the open air museum Ancient SIam City just outside of Bangkok, Thailand.  An image like this does not come easy. Most people think you just set up a tripod and start shooting. Ok… so then what do you do about 100 plus tourists that are all mulling around? And what about the light poles that are so conveniently located as to ruin your image no matter what angle you shoot it from?

Well as for the tourists… it was a waiting game. I had the camera on the tripod and I was moving around from place to place and I noticed that the tourists would come in waves. So I found my spot and just waited. Still it was mostly luck.

Now the light post… that is a 2 hour tale in Photoshop using every skill I knew and even learning some new ones.

Reminiscing With Your Photos ( This is where my love of photography really leads me to people, places and situations… )

1/320 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

1/320 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Pattaya Thailand

I was really missing Thailand today. For those who don’t know, my wife is Thai and she still has her house there so we travel there about once a year. Don’t get me wrong I love the USA, but I love Thailand too.

So today I was talking with a customer by phone and he told me he was in New Orleans and it was very hot. That then turned the conversation to the like or dislike hot weather. And talking about warm/hot weather always takes me to Thailand in my mind. Then after I hung up the phone I started to really miss Thailand and of course I turned to my monitor and opened up a folder of photos from my 2014 trip and started to reminisce. After all what are photos for, right? Being a photographer it is easy to get caught up in the whole scheme of capturing “that next great shot” and after the capture there is the edit. Using tools like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to create an awesome final image is what I refer to as “grand scheme of it all” and as photographers we are always pushing for that next image. This is where my love of photography really leads me to people, places and situations that I might not normally meet or get to see. But at the end of the day (so to speak) I still like to sit and look at my images and reminisce or sometimes just study the photo, after “all a picture is worth a thousand words” so they say. I often wonder how many photographers actually sit and go through their photos.

Now I know you may be thinking “why would someone take pictures and never look at them?” But it happens… and a lot more often than you think it does.  Rewind to my post from a few years back about the “Enigma Photographer” the man I met who takes thousands of photos and never downloads them. Myself I keep everything in a respectable order so I can find my photos as needed.

So now back to the reminiscing of Thailand; Take this photo for instance; it was captured at 8:18am as I was on my way back to the hotel where I was staying. What are the chances that I would have been up before dawn and out and about and headed back to the hotel when most people are just rolling out of bed? But that is what photography does to/for me, it makes me get up early and go out hunting. Now of course I do not do this every day, but when I am in a new place I know I may find different things and meet different people. So on this day I was up and out on the street at the crack of dawn, walking along the beach and taking it all in. So when I look at this image it takes me back to that morning in Pattaya. I remember snapping many shots of the morning street activity, all the people coming into the city to go to work. I captured many motorbikes and this one was interesting because as I shot the burst of 3 to 4 images I notice in the viewfinder that the little boy sees me and is looking right at me as they pass by. I was not standing close and the street is very wide, but still he noticed me. On this particular morning I captured many images and several were good “street style” images. I guess you could say that was the so-called project for the day “to get up early and go shoot street style photography” and that I did. Then went back and had a wonderful breakfast with my wife and as the heat of the day rose up I retreated to the cool hotel room and edited my images and waited for the late day light to head back out to the streets again. What a life…

2015 (Problems are the pot holes, all roads have them. Your job is to learn how to get past them.)

I call it the 10,000 mile sunset because that's about how far from home I was when I captured it.
I call it the 10,000 mile sunset because that’s about how far from home I was when I captured it.

The sun set on 2014 and here we are in 2015, a new year with new goals or resolutions. Hardly! As one may know from my previous posts I think the whole “New Year’s resolution” thing is a bunch of crap. Just because the date or number on a calendar changed means you, have to all of the sudden make a plan to do something that you should have already been doing in the first place and you waited till a certain date to try and do it. Hardly makes any sense at all if you ask me. …but who am I, just the world’s worst blogger. Maybe it is me, but anytime I set out on a so called “new year’s resolution” it just ended up by the wayside about three weeks in to the New Year. Again as I said when I posted last year about this time; reaching goals and conquering challenges are more of a mindset and a knowing of “this is something I just have to do.” After all you get and up each morning and brush your teeth right? And maybe brushing of the teeth is a bad example because you can actually get out the door without brushing your teeth. There are no teeth police that will come and beat you down for not brushing your teeth. Although it would make for a miserable day. But how about leaving the house without your clothes on? Ahhh… see now that right there would be something you just “have” to do, you have to put your clothes on. Or there will be police and the whole day would just be ruined. So goals are like clothes, doesn’t really matter what they are, just that they are yours and you have to wear them.
I will agree however a new year is a great milestone in everyone’s life and this would be a great time to sit and reflect back on 2014 and look at all the fun you had or didn’t have. See it was the lack of fun in 2013 that had me motivated enough to make changes for 2014. So for me 2014 was a great year for several areas of my life. No not all areas of my life were great and if they were it would most likely mean I was Kardashian. However I feel very good about my accomplishments with my photography. I learned a lot of new techniques in both shooting and editing and really this is something that will happen every year if I keep up the push. Rather than just thinking I have learned enough to make a great photo is no reason to stop. I can make a great photo, hell I can make a down right awesome photo… of a sunset 10,000 miles away from home. But it is the knowledge I learned about working with people in the past twelve months that I think is the most rewarding. Now you have to know I am 18 years into a catering business that specializes in on-site cooking. So… yeah I’m a people person. And with my photography I have never really had a problem when it comes to dealing with a client on the business side of things and I also do very well in working with people when it comes to posing. But this year I ventured outside of that comfort zone and I wanted to learn how to produce a model shoot, I mean a full scale on-location photo shoot and a big studio shoot. This is a whole new animal compared to just taking the standard portraits and headshots. So without going into details both the studio and location shoots went very well. But before that could be achieved I had to learn how to work with models on a level that would allow me to accomplish large scale shoots. So all along this road that I traveled down in the past year I met some really interesting and wonderful people. I made some really nice friends, some of whom are just the coolest and most wonderful people. Of course there were a few not so nice idiots on that road but that’s ok.
I was also able to travel to Thailand & Laos this year and that was not only good and fun, it was also a challenge. I say a challenge because I actually lived (not vacationed) in Thailand for one month and I had never lived outside of the states for a whole month in a place where I can barely speak the language. For one week I stayed in the Gulf of Thailand on Koh Chang and although that part was kind of a vacation of sorts, I viewed it more as a place to expand my horizons and learn about the Koh Chang Archipelago that has now become part of my life and I know will never leave. I found a treasure that Thailand has to offer that few people know of and I’ll leave it at that. I think most would say “oh yeah it is a great place to vacation” and there are a lot of resorts there. But what I learned had very little to do with resorts and beach goers. What I learned was the natural beauty of the Koh Chang Archipelago and I just seen the tip of the iceberg so to speak. So yes there will be many trips back to Koh Chang in the future.
I also lost about 40 lbs of body weight this past year, due in part to this magical thing called “just doing it.” You know, it is that thing where you exercise and make better choices about what you eat. Magic? Hardly! More like wearing clothes as you leave the house each day… it is just something you have to do.
So is life perfect? No and far from it. But life does need guidance and direction. Even people who have life after death experiences (whether you believe or not) say they seen or we’re headed toward a light. They never say they just wandered aimlessly. So goals are like the guiding light and you should always be heading in that direction. You choose the light and you choose the road to get there. Problems are the pot holes, all roads have them. Your job is to learn how to get past them. …I know it all sound easy when we read it. Now just go and do it.

Thailand 2014 (travel, food and photography)

Buddhas are plentiful, in all sizes and various colors.

Buddhas are plentiful, in all sizes and various colors.

So yes for those reading this post, I am still in Thailand. I have left the tropics of Ko Chang Island and have made my way up the village of Ban Khamin in Kalasin province. The village is located about 20 minutes or so from Kalasin City.

So how is it going? Mostly good, but with a few little minor glitches. Internet in the village is very hard to come by. I have finally found a way connect to the Galaxy 5 tablet I purchased here in Thailand. Taking several tries I found a way, but still the connection only works when the status read 3G H+. Don’t quite know what that means but it works. I fell yesterday and although the fall was as minor as the come with only a scrape to the forearm, I somehow managed to crack the screen on the tablet. So now about 1/8 of the top of the screen is not visible. Another stupid thing I did was forgot to pack my camera straps. Not a big deal because I am an avid user of wrist straps or use a tripod when shooting at home in the USA. But there are times when carrying two bodies, it would be nice to have my Black Rapid straps.

Great fresh food here is so plentiful as I have blogged about in the past. Chicken & fish are my two favorites, especially when cooked over a fire. I am actually eating fresh picked little Thai bananas at this moment, they’re my favorite snacks. At home I like to snack on pretzels from time to time, but pretzels here are nonexistent. In the village here my wife’s family eats more Lao style food than actual Thai food. Lao style is very different and not too much to my liking due to the pungent and strong tastes. With that said, I do like many of the soups, but the “weed” like veggies are a bit strange. I love the chicken here and as I stated in earlier post “I could eat it every day.” There is a road side BBQ place on the main road to Kalasin City that has the very best. They put garlic & lemon grass under the skin, warning is; you have to really like garlic. I interviewed the owner yesterday and shot some video and I’ll do a post at a later time just about his history and his food. I’ll even give the GPS location for anyone who may ever venture to Kalasin and want to try the best chicken there is. I also had wonderful steak that my nephew Mai made last night and that was a treat. I don’t eat too much red meat any more, but a little every now & then won’t hurt.

Photo editing is very basic as I don’t have a very fast or powerful laptop and because of that I have no access to Adobe Photoshop CC. All I have is Lightroom 5 as my RAW converter, which is top notch. But the Adobe Elements in place of Photoshop CC is a joke. I know a lot of people use Elements and like it, but for someone who is used to CC it doesn’t even begin to compare. I will wait till I return to process all of my HDR images as well as my nicer landscapes and face shots.

I have really been testing the capabilities of the Canon 6D’s ISO (ISO is sensitivity of light). For those who don’t know, years ago Canon stopped putting the “pop up” flash on higher end cameras. It is the one big difference between Canon & Nikon. The reviews for the 6D’s low light shooting were very good and it was one of the selling points for me as an “available light” shooter. Yes I did bring radio flash units with me and so far I have used flash only twice on about 10 shots. The ability to shoot high ISO in low light without flash is a real game changer for me. With that said; I try to stay as low as possible with ISO, mostly shooting daytime shots at 50 to 100 ISO. But being able to shoot in very low light at 5000 or even 6400 ISO is amazing. I also found a way to us the higher ISO range for awesome “street style” photography. I will do a post on just that technique at a later time as well.

So in closing I’ll mention a few funny things about Thailand that just make me laugh. Napkins are little pieces of white  or pink paper, so small one drop of water makes them disappear. Imagine toilet paper at just one ply… think about that for a minute and “yes” that is a napkin. Beer is always served with ice in it unless you request “no ice.” There is not a pretzel to be found in the whole country to go with your beer… nada, none, zip, zero nothing at all. Potato chips come in “Squid, Seaweed or Crab” flavor. But they also have some really nice potato chip flavors too, like Swiss cheese. And the thing that really is so funny is the fact that no matter where you are you can not fall down without hitting a 7-Eleven store.

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