No Justice in Black & White (part 2 of 2) (The scene was so surreal with banana and papaya trees everywhere…)

No Justice in Black & White (part 2 of 2)

Early on the morning of October 31, 2009 Munn’s brother-in-law arrives with his pickup truck to take us to her village. It will be a 9-hour ride although we will stop for a roadside lunch. Needless to say, I was really excited about this trip. I love road trips in the USA because it usually means I get to see new and different places and now, I get to experience Thailand by “road trip.” As a photographer; is there any better joy than that? But of course, I was still a novice photographer by all means. By October 2009 I had been into photography for several years, but now I had my first DSLR, a Canon T1i with two lenses.

At this time, I was still shooting in JPEG (mostly). I knew what RAW was, actually let me restate that. I thought I knew what RAW was. Either way, I was riding in the front passenger seat of the pickup truck and loving every minute of it. I would anticipate our next restroom or fuel stop, so I could get out and walk around and explore a little before it was time to hit the road and be back on our way.

1/320 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 82mm

As we headed north, I notice a little change in architecture of the buildings and other things such as farmland. Farmland really excited me just as much as city life. I couldn’t wait to get out in the countryside and see Thai nature. Sadly, with the short days of October and nine plus hours of travel, it meant the last leg of the road trip would be in the dark. We rolled into Kalasin City in the early evening and we had to stop by the market to get food for the next day. I say “market” however it was not a store. It was more like a central marketplace for the whole city of Kalasin. It was big, there was fresh everything, from fresh fish to fruits and vegetables and of course there was a lot of prepared food in the way of barbequed chicken & fish, soups and so much more.

After a day of traveling in the car and fighting an intense case of jet lag, the smells of the market were really getting to me. I wanted to capture photos, but I was really hitting a wall of fatigue. We rolled into the village under the cover of darkness and that was actually a good thing, although I did not realize it until the next day.

Okay, so as a little side note here; Thai people are very friendly, Thai village people are even more friendly. Friendly to the point you need to prepare yourself for it. When you’re new to a village (in most cases) everybody wants to know you, they want to say “hi” and bring you food and beer and just talk… even if you can’t understand them, they still want to talk lol. I found this all out the next day, as the word spread though the village that there was a big white American guy in the village.

I woke at 5:00am the first morning, Munn was up and gone at 4:00am. She would walk to the nearby temple to cook for the monk and would return, but not before I woke up. Upon waking I hear voices in the distance, some laughing and other just talking. I could hear occasional footsteps outside the house in the street as someone was walking by. Every so often there was a dog bark and not too far away I heard two dogs fighting for about five seconds, then a lady yelling to break them up. I could smell a rather pungent smoke in the air as it lightly drifted in the open window. For me it was like Christmas morning, I wanted to see the village in the daylight, but was only predawn. I used the restroom put on shorts and a t-shirt and out the door I went. Actually, now that I was outside, I was afraid to go very far because I spoke very little Thai and Munn was no where in sight. I soon learned the pungent smell was coming from small piles of trash burning in the middle of the street. I seen a few neighbors raking dead leaves, paper, sticks and other debris that had gathered in front of their homes. They would rake it to a small pile in the middle of the street and burn it, the smoke would hang in the heavy morning air.

As I looked up and down the peaceful empty village streets there was an early morning haze or fog of sorts. The haze was a mix of the humidity and smoke, the temperature was about 70°F and it felt great to me. The scene was so surreal with banana and papaya trees everywhere, chickens coming down from their roost and an occasional dog walking down the street by himself, heading somewhere with a plan just like a person would. The streets were mostly concrete but covered with red dust from the local dirt. I stood there taking the whole scene in and just processing it.

It wasn’t long before the sun was up and the village came to life. Gone was the smoke and haze of the predawn hours and now I could smell food cooking, tractors and motorbikes filled the streets with an occasional car or pickup truck. Most of the motorbikes were people starting their daily commute to work or school. Small children crying, neighbors yelling to each other from five houses away, just so much activity, I loved every minute of it and of course my DSLR never left my hand. I was always looking for that something to make an interesting photo. Years later I would soon learn that I needed to be looking for the “moment” as most photographers will call it, especially wedding photographers.

Before I knew to look for the “moment” I did know that I needed to find “interesting,” oddly enough sometimes the interesting moment will find you. All you have to do is be prepared for it, have your camera at hand and be ready. It was fun and memorable, to be able to capture so much at every turn of my head. After the morning past I headed out to the country side on the back of a motorbike. Yes, the back of a motorbike so I could have my hands free to shoot as we traveled. But that story is for another post.

In conclusion; the whole trip was awesome and I have returned many times. Munn and I were married and that is an amazing story by itself. Two people 10,000 miles apart, meet as 100% cold contacts, no dating websites or couples’ services, just me pulling a name out of the Skype world directory. Just looking for a chat friend, not knowing if they were male or female. It is actually hilarious every time I think about it.

From this trip my love of photography intensified ten-fold and I eventually grew to be a commercial photographer. Thailand was special for so many reasons, but one is; this is where I found how it is very hard to create black & white photos of a place that is so beautifully rich with color. I have edited some black & whites from Thailand and people have liked them, but for me I see the color and it is so much more beautiful.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Read part one.

1920s Flapper Girl (Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers.)

Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/3.2 ISO 320 160mm. Hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Style, Dress & gloves from Unique Vintage Makeup by Ambre Baxter

My latest photography project has many layers to it. It started out as a straightforward project themed around the stereotypical 1920s Flapper Girl. Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers. I really don’t know where or how the idea it started; but I think it was when I was looking at some old silent film footage and seeing women dressed in the cloche hats and stockings rolled at the top.

In the past I had read much about the women of the roaring twenties. Although it was way before my time, the one thing I always remembered about it was that it was a “time of big change” for our country and women were part of that change. The 19th amendment to the constitution ratified on August 18, 1920 gave women a right to vote. This certainly was a time of change and the “Flapper” came to life. Flappers were already on the rise and there is also much debate as to where the term flapper was born and to what it actually meant. Wikipedia describes Flappers as such; Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.[1] Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe.”

So as I do with all my projects I started off with hours of research and reading, and to some this may seem boring however for me it serves a purpose. It gives me time to relax and read (I love research reading) and while reading it gives me ideas and also helps me solidify my thoughts of a specific look. It also helps me find what looks I don’t want to do. For example I did not want to go with a Gatsby style look. At first I did want the Gatsby look and then as I researched I realized the look would be rather generic at this point do to the movie being out a few years back and… well I just wanted a different look and feel. I think the biggest obstacle was wardrobe. While there is so many websites that offer so called 1920s style dresses, they are not at all 1920s style. Any moron can Google 1920 era images of women and easily see that the wardrobe offered today that is listed as Flapper style is hardly that. Hats were the hardest to find. Finding a hat that actually looked like a true 1920s style is practically impossible if you want “just an everyday” hat. Fancy hats were easier to find. Subsequently I had to compromise; I used three hats and one turban. The turban looked authentic and while two of the hats looked amazing they still were not authentic to the time period. Shoes were easy to find, that was not a problem.

I chose to go with a “day dress” look rather than the evening or party attire of that period. In the beginning I was going to shoot two looks with one model. I then thought; why not add another model and shoot one look on each. As for dresses I found Unique Vintage, a website that had dresses that fit the budget and they really looked pretty close to 20s era dresses. Although the fabric would be different it would not a big deal at all.

As for models; Kallie was my first choice because she is new and I wanted to give her camera time. But when I thought of Smithville Mansion as the location and I also thought of Nicole Gallagher. She is the one who first introduced me to the location and she is perfect for the shoot. Her posing is awesome and she has a rounder face (as opposed to angular) that was classic to the Flapper look. Flapper makeup techniques purposely made their face appear rounder as opposed to most current makeup techniques that give an angular look. So I used both Nicole Gallagher and Kallie Pyatt. This worked perfect because of the hot weather I was able to shoot each model separately without the heat & humidity killing the look. It damn near killed me, but the models did fine.

Kallie Pyatt 1/125 sec at f/6.3 ISO 640 155mm Makeup by Ambre Baxter, dress by Unique Vintage, hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Vintage

For a makeup artist I reconnected with Ambre Baxter and she was amazing. Doing makeup on location in the heat is truly a challenge. However both models looked amazing and again not 100% true to the period, but good enough.

Project goals: This project had several layers to it as I had stated at the opening of this post. First was to create a Flapper Girl look, using day dresses. I wanted the looks to be as if she was a 1920s girl out and about in the daytime. Kallie’s look was a little more reserved than Nicole’s look and neither girl looked as if they were heading to the party or jazz club.

Second goal was to shoot a good portion of this shoot on 35mm film. As of this writing I still have not received my 35mm scans, but I’m hoping for the best. I used CineStill 50 Daylight in two cameras, a Canon EOS 650 film body with an f/1.4 50mm prime and a Pentax Spotmatic with a f/1.4 50mm prime. I also used Ilford Delta 100 (B&W) with a Canon EOS 650 mounted with an f/1.8 85mm prime. I have had the film just waiting for a project and this was the project.

Third goal was that I always wanted to shoot Nicole at Smithville Park because our very first test shoot was supposed to be at that park. However the day we went to shoot there was a huge event taking place and we couldn’t even get close to the park, let alone into the park. We opted for a second location and went on with the shoot. However Smithville Park is a place that is very near & dear to Nicole for personal reasons and I always said to myself “someday we’ll shoot there.” And now we did.

Fourth goal was to give Kallie more camera time. She is new and she is advancing I see her getting better with each shoot. She fun and easy to work with so why not.

Fifth goal was I needed a new cover photo for my business Facebook page and as crazy as it sounds I take cover photos very seriously. Your cover photo and profile photo are your first impressions when a newcomer first visits your page. “First impressions are lasting ones” as they say (whoever they are lol).

Sixth goal was to get at least one portfolio quality image out of this shoot and I can safely say this was accomplished.

In closing I would like to say the shoot could have been better… it can always be better, but I’m very happy with what I did get from it.

I will write another post when I receive my scans and I discuss shooting with film and the techniques I used.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas. (the backstory to the composite)

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas.

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas.

Sometimes I have a well thought out plan about a composite image. Maybe I have to make a portrait of an athlete, let’s say a football player. So I know the background is going to be a sports field or a locker room and this will be very much cut & dry as to what the end image is going to look like.

Then there are those times when I have no idea what is going to happen or for that matter, no idea what is going on. I start to get kind of lost in what I’m doing and actually “lost” is not the right word but I just see something in a background that resonates with an image I already have in my library and then I will run down a rabbit hole in Photoshop. The whole process could take hours or it could take minutes, but if it starts to come together and it “gels” then I can’t leave it alone until I get it finished or almost finished. I say almost because I have learned that as I’m approaching the so-called “finish line” on an unplanned image, I really need to sleep on it and revisit the image the next day. Maybe the dodge & burn was a little over the edge or the sharpening was too much. The finishing touches have to be done with “fresh eyes” as I always say.

So while shooting Santa Claus photos at the local children’s play gym I captured images of the Santa that were kind of different. I was getting the lights set up and taking test shots while Santa was sitting and thinking about his upcoming Hawaiian vacation. When I viewed the images in post I saved a few thinking they could possibly be used in a composite. Santa looked kind of “washed out” and “far away” and that just stuck in my head.

Then the background image really resonated with me. It looks old yet it has these rays of light coming in, the room is so basic and screams of negativity to me. I think because it is mostly an empty room with nothing happening other than sunlight. I loved the leading lines on the floor and somehow I got the same feeling of despair looking at this room as I did seeing the washed out Santa. Soon I’m opening Photoshop and the creativity starts to happen. Santa is in the wrong kind of chair so I used an image of the posing chair I use for model shoots. My chair, although you only see the legs seemed more “time period” appropriate for the room. As for Santa, he is timeless so he works, but he did require a little “Puppet Warping” in PS to make his hands fit the scene. You have to know unlike most composites, in this example Santa was not photographed to be used in a composite. The camera was at f/8 and ISO 50 and there is studio lighting, however the masking out of the Santa from the original scene was not a walk through the park by any means.

So to put the whole scene together Santa needed some serious dodge & burn to put him and the chair into the window light of the room. And it is around this time that I start conversion process to black & white. It does not mean I will use the black & white image, but for all intent purposes I like to make both a color images and a b&w. I have posted in the past about my processes for b&w conversions (I have several) but this one was accomplished using Nik (Google) Silver Efex. All my b&w images first start with a fully edited color images and then go to b&w. Most of the way I edit came to me several years back by way of the two books “Welcome to Oz” and “From Oz to Kansas” by Nikon Ambassador Vincent Versace. These two books are great reading for the intermediate to advanced Photoshop user and have to be read in the order as I have mentioned.

In the end I decided to go with the b&w image although I then have to decide will it be tinted towards the bluer side or the yellower side. Realistically there are only two tints to use other than straight & pure b&w. Blue implies coolness, cold or it could imply night, dark and moonlight. While yellow implies daylight, warmth and heat. Although not a realistic image by any means, I mean we have a mythical Santa, the images is not in color and Santa was never in that room or even in that chair, but we still have to give the viewer a sense of the time of day or some sort of ambiance and I chose an ever so slight “coffee” tint. I do this final tinting in Silver Efex and I myself am more partial to a “brownish” monochrome image rather than a true and pure black & white.

So there is the backstory on the “Poor Santa” image. In the end I see Santa all wiped out the day after Christmas. For weeks he has been putting up with the entire Christmas calamity and now he’s done! Ready to catch a flight to the islands.