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.

Where Will Your Camera Take You? (Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together.)

Koh Chang, Thailand

Where Will Your Camera Take You?

Most photographers never really think about where their camera will take them. I can honestly say “my camera has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d ever go to.” When I make this statement, many readers may think I have traveled the world over and have been to exotic places. In some ways this is partially true, but you don’t have to go around the world to see amazing things and meet wonderful people. There may be an amazing place right up the street from where you live or amazing people in your community that you haven’t met yet.

My camera and my love of photography has taken me to places 10,000 miles away and it has taken me into the fields and forest behind my house. My wife is from Thailand and while my photography played a very small part in meeting her, it has played a huge roll in my life when I travel to Thailand. I can say without a doubt that there are places I would have never seen and people I would have never met if it wasn’t for the fact that I am a photographer. This sounds so prolific when you put the “10,000 miles away” statement in the paragraph. It makes me sound so worldly, I can also honestly make that same statement about the area where I live right here in the USA.

I live on the west side of New Jersey not for from the Delaware River that divides New Jersey & Pennsylvania. As my photography grew, I wanted more and more out of it. I didn’t want to just take photos of my dog anymore and I never was that great of a landscape photographer, however I did like product & food photography. I like my own product photography, I would sell stuff on eBay and I knew that the better the images of the product or item I was selling, the higher the bids would go. I sold everything on eBay from a postage stamp to a Caterpillar bulldozer. With that I was hired several times to photograph moderate to high dollar items such as antiques and cars.

Organic Pumpkin Doughnuts with pecans and maple glaze. 1/60 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 50mm

 

Still I wanted much more from my photography. I would photograph events, just for the fun of it. Many times, I would be at a public event and think to myself “If not for photography, I would most likely not be at this event.” Some events I chose just because I wanted the challenge of photographing fast-moving things, so I would go to an airshow. Parades are always nice, but again I still wanted something more.

As my photography progressed, so did my editing skills. Learning Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom were a bit of a challenge at first, but like riding a bike it comes quickly if you keep at it. Around this time, I decided I really liked photographing people and I wanted to pursue it. I had always liked photographing people, however one day I sat thinking long and hard and came to the realization how much I liked it. The reason I had not pursued it I think was mostly due to lack of confidence and lack of equipment. One, being a mental thing and the other being obviously a money thing. So, I soon set off on a journey to acquire what I needed to photograph people. In time came better lenses and then onto building an arsenal of lighting equipment.

As for the confidence; it too came in an ebb & flow kind of way. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and “hey today I can photograph anybody.” I think what happened was, I realized I had the skill all along, all I needed to do was talk. I am not an “up front in your face kind of person” when I fist meet someone, however I found a long time ago that I have the ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. It doesn’t matter really who it is, but I usually find something to talk about. This is nothing new of course, we have all heard or read that we can start a conversation if we can find a “common ground” topic. So, using my gift of talking to people I found photographing people easier to do if I could talk as I worked.

Shooting portraits is something I really like to do because for one, I can make money doing it and two, it is a way to network into other areas of photography. Think about how much easier is it to get a wedding gig when I have already met the person/s. Business headshots is another way to network and get some good commercial work. I love photography and I love it more when it makes me money.

So as time went on my photography allowed me to meet more people, some of which I have become very good friends with and other who have become regular customers over the years. As I look back at all the places, I have been just because of my knowing how to work a camera and edit a digital image is really amazing to me. I might add it is not all about working a camera and editing an image in Photoshop. Just take for instance an engagement shoot I did at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, I have done many engagement shoots and most times the couple wants to go to a rather quiet place, a somewhat peaceful place, but not these guys. The location is the Art Museum on a rather cold Saturday in January. It is a nice day, but cold and there is a lot of people and my job is to get good images of this couple and include the scenery of the outside of the museum all while not getting people into their photos. And if that is not bad enough there is not a cloud in the sky so the sunlight is as about as harsh as it gets. Also, I would guess about half the people walking around are also photographers on some level or another.

A little bit of a challenge it was. Just getting to the museum and parking was enough to make me want to go back home lol. Then there was the cold air and wind, the bright sunlight and all the people. All this is going on and at one point, for just a moment I think to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” If not for the money I was making I don’t think I would have any reason to hangout one the steps of the Philly Art Museum on a cold windy day in January. The images of that day turned out great, the couple loved them and they pay for the job was very good.

 

“Look where my camera has taken me today” is something I actually think to myself a lot. Sometimes I will say it out loud even if I am all alone. I think the first time I really thought about it and actually said it to myself was in 2012 while I was in Thailand at a Buddhist temple on top of a mountain. We had driven to a parking area located nearly at the top of the mountain. Then we walked and we walked, uphill of course. “Don’t stop walking now we’re almost there” said my wife’s niece. It is very hot and humid, and I am carrying 30 lbs. of camera gear and a tripod. I am dying as we reach the steps. As I reach the top step and walk through the gate, I feel this wonderfully strong breeze blowing through the doorway. So, I step into the shade of the round roof & walkway that surrounds the temple and I stay right there. The breeze was heavenly and I drink two bottles of water in a about a minute.

As I was cooling down, I was taking in the beauty of the temple grounds, with all the amazing flowers, trees and walkways. Under the circular roof there were an endless line of gold monk busts. Then I looked toward the temple itself and it was nine stories tall and still under construction. As I walked across the courtyard into the bright sun, I was anticipating the coolness I knew would be inside the temple. I take off my shoes quickly and enter and “yes” it is cool, a nice breeze is blowing through. But nothing like the breeze that was blowing at the gate.

Okay, so there are nine floors to this temple and I will photograph my way to the top. Sadly, the elevator was still not finished and I had to climb the steep stairs. Each floor was hotter than the previous and there was no more breeze. Also, I was on my last bottle of water. So, I did make it all the way to the top and out to the open balcony. The view was breathtaking, I could see for miles. There was a slight breeze, but there was also midday sun beating down. While at the top I did take photos of the view and of the family and then back inside. After heading down the stairs, floor by floor I made it to the second floor and it was cool enough that I just wanted to sit. As I was resting, I seen a very nice scene I wanted to photograph. I was sitting on the floor preparing the camera on the tripod and then I stopped and waited as people were moving though my scene.

During this waiting for people to move and me recovering from the heat is when it hit me. I sat there thinking to myself; “look at me… I am here on this mountain top at this beautiful temple… me a country boy from 10,000 miles away” and then I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Sure, it was my wife’s idea to come to this temple, but only because she knew it would be an awesome place for me to photograph. If not for that reason I would have never been there. So, I just waited for the people to move and soon they did. I shot a series of HDR photos and moved on. But not before letting it really sink in that this camera, I am holding is really changing my life.

I have since returned to that temple once more on another trip to Thailand and I was better prepared. The second visit was well thought out and I annoyed the shit out of everybody traveling with me as I took my good ole time photographing all the stuff, I missed on the first trip lol.

Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together. Charon was a friend of mine who I had met on Facebook by way of her daughter who had done some amateur modeling. Charon had met Jimmy and they fell in love, I had never seen her so happy. I mean she was just so happy to have found Jimmy and he loved her too, they were an awesome couple. Charon said “I want you to shoot us, a couples shoot and it’s a paid gig, not a freebie.”

We all meet up at Smithville Park a very popular wedding and engagement shoot location in New Jersey. This was my first-time meeting Jimmy and he seemed a little “off.” I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but he seemed just a little weird. Then Jimmy said he had just had brain surgery a week or so earlier. When Jimmy left to use the restroom, Charon told me the bad news. Jimmy had brain cancer and he only had a few months live, maybe more. I continued shooting and never missed a beat. We all kept joking and moving around to the different locations at the park. We had stopped at a gazebo, it was shady and cool, I could see Jimmy was tiring and Charon was getting a phone call. So, I stepped back and let them have some private time together while I looked through my camera at the images.

I was really hurting inside. I was hurting for Jimmy who I had just met, but more so I was hurting for Charon. She is such a wonderful human being and her fulltime job is taking care of dying people. She met Jimmy because she was caring for his dying mother. They met, they fell in love and now just months later Jimmy was dying… and I am photographing the last good day of his life. And it was at that moment I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Not 10,000 miles away and not some exotic location, but to a place where I am capturing the end days of a man’s life with a woman he loves so much. After the job was done, I just sat in my car and after Charon & Jimmy left I cried.

I sat in the car just thinking about what had just happened. I was watching another couple with their photographer as she was photographing them in the park and thinking “they look just a happy as Jimmy & Charon, but I bet he’s not dying” and I laughed a little bit. I drove and got a cup of coffee to clear my head and then as I drove the hour or so back home, I ran though my mind all the places my camera had taken me. I thought about all the people I had met. It was one of those drives where I arrived at my driveway and don’t remember anything about the ride because my mind was so far away in thought.

Jimmy passed away four months later and left a hole in Charon’s heart that truly may never heal. I know they say “time heals all” and I truly believe that, but sometimes there are just not enough years in our life for time to do its good deed.

Sorry to end on such a sad note, but that is just how life is sometimes, that’s how it was for Jimmy & Charon.

Thanks for stopping by and reading.

 

 

 

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.

No Justice in Black & White (Welcome to the land of smiles… and lots of color)

1/125 sec at f/4.5 ISO 100 70mm

No Justice in Black & White (part 1 of 2)

I love black & white photography. What I love most about B&W is that I have to convert it over from a color image to B&W. Of course, today there is more ways to convert to B&W that you can shake a stick at, but my favorites are Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Most of the time I use Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. It is a lot of fun to run a photo though this process and it is certainly altogether different form the days of film where all we had to do was put black & white film in the camera.

1/125 sec at f/4.5 ISO 100 70mm

Okay, with all that said; B&W photography is, like all things in photography, very subjective. After all some photographers shoot exclusively in B&W and others reserve it for certain situations or genres. I know photographers who will shoot color most all the time but reserve B&W for landscapes. Then there are those who feel “street photography” should always be shot in B&W. While I too feel street photography looks great in B&W, I tend to totally break away from that rule while traveling to Thailand. Thailand like other Asian countries is so vibrant with color that it is hard to capture an image and look at all the colors and say “ok this needs to be a black & white photo.”

Thai Snorkel Boat Koh Chang

It is obviously the culture; Thai people love vibrant color and use it in a way they we usually do not see here in the USA. I travel to Thailand for a month every year or so because my wife is Thai and we go to visit family, travel around and basically enjoy Thailand. Now I am using Thailand in my example, however other Asian countries have a lot of color too, it’s just that I’m partial to Thailand, my second home.

On my first trip to Thailand my plane arrived just before midnight October 27, 2009. My arrival was not at a jetway, but rather the old-style mobile stairs that roll up to the aircraft’s door. So, after all most 30 hours of travel I was perplexed to see this and then I was stunned when my face hit the 92°F (33°C) humid and pungent air of Bangkok. Having left the USA where it was very cold with rain & ice, I met up with my girlfriend (now wife), headed to the taxi line and off to the hotel located in Pattaya about an hour away along the water front.

At the airport I did not notice any change in color, maybe I was too tired. During the midnight taxi ride I was looking out the window the during the whole ride. My girlfriend Munn was very tied from her bus ride to meet me at the airport so she quickly fell asleep in the taxi.

I am in a new country, a new land and I want to take it all in, but the night view was just highway scenery with giant billboards. I mean like the biggest billboards I have ever seen in my life. As the taxi hummed on through the night, blazing down the highway that had very little traffic, I just stared out into the night and was mesmerized at how all yellowish-orangish everything looked from the highway lighting. There was also an almost full moon with ominous dark clouds around it, everything looking so surreal.

Soon the taxi starts to slow a bit and I know we’re close. I have to explain for those who may not know Pattaya is a party city that practically never sleeps. It is a mix of beer bars, restaurants, night clubs, hotels and everything else that tourist come to enjoy. Munn chose this destination as a place for us to layover for a few days before traveling to her village. Why? I have no idea whatsoever. Munn is a very traditional country girl, she worked just outside of Bangkok for several years, but would often spend weekends back at her village. She wanted me to see Pattaya, however this is not really my style either, but for photography this place is awesome.

1/800 sec at f/4.0 10.835mm Canon A640

After only a few hours sleep I was awake and eager to get out and see Thailand in the daylight. A quick trip to the breakfast buffet and then out into the day. Again, it is a new experience for me, Thai culture, food everywhere and motorbikes… The motorbikes were just everywhere I turned. The air was hot and humid, but I was embracing it. As Munn and I walked along and I am taking in all this new “everything” all of the sudden it hit me as to “how colorful everything looks.” The motorbikes, the people on the motorbikes, the signs, the buildings, the boats, just everything seemed to have more color than I would see anywhere I had ever been in the USA. Well, anywhere in the USA except for Chinatown. So again, it is an Asian culture thing… I guess. But I love it!

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

After a morning of walking along the waterfront and other streets I start to get tired, the heat is taking its toll. I retreat to the hotel room where I am eager to look at my bounty of photos I have captured. As I start to go through the images again, I realize even more how much color I see. It was at this time I started to come to the realization that I do not think black & white edits can do justice to any of my photos. Here again some photographers would argue the point that “street photography” should always be black & white because it strips the image down to just looking at the scene for what it is and blah, blah, blah… Whatever. For me, to edit a photo into black & white is more of a creative decision, rather that following a rule.

So, after a few days it is time to head 9 hours north by car to Munn’s village in the Kalasin province.

See part two.

Carabao at the Irving Plaza NYC. (They were perfectly loud and I say it that way because …)

So I recently went with my wife and a friend to see Caraboa at the famed Irving Plaza in NYC. Now for my American friends let me give a brief description of Caraboa. They are a Thai rock band that started up in 1981 and continues to go strong today. Their material can be described simply as “song for life.” Their music is fueled by the protest and upheaval of the 1970’s in Thailand. Very similar in some ways as some of the American & British rock bands of the late sixties and early 70’s.

So I know my American musician friends are asking; are they any good? And I can say with a 100% yes. They are a world-class band for sure. They are as tight and on point as any great band I have ever seen. While they are influenced by many sources the overall feel for me personally was very Allman Brothers-ish (without the extended guitar jams). The music is rock driven guitar with prominent keyboard and at times other various instruments. They were perfectly loud and I say it that way because after a near three-hour performance and standing only about 30 feet from the stage I left the show with hearing intact. Their sound mix was perfect too, I could hear every instrument and vocal clearly. There was no fancy gimmicks or stage antics just good ole hard-core guitar driven rock music. At the same time I must point out that they have a strong style all their own and while they come across as a “rock band” on some tunes I hear the influence of folk music with mandolin, flute and acoustic guitar. Most of their songs have a bouncing beat that kept the crowd dancing through the whole show. So I can say “yes” to putting on an energetic show and nobody is falling asleep. Just like Thai food has a signature taste with lime leaf, lemongrass and tamarind. Carabao’s music has a signature Thai feel for the most part. When I visit Thailand I really like the sound of the Isaan/Lao style and I could hear that coming through in some of Carabao’s tunes.

Although I know very little Thai and I did not understand most of the vocals I still enjoyed the event.  Music is universal and being a fan of guitar driven rock I loved the show and I would go see them again.

My only gripe would be the timing of the event. The doors opened at 11:00pm on a Sunday night in NYC. The band actually took to the stage at 12:20am (Monday morning) so yeah… definitely not going to work on a Monday morning. I realize it was most likely due to last-minute booking so they could get a show in on the east coast. And with that said there were fans there from far and wide. I met people from Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts and more. There fans are obviously dedicated and not just a bunch of older folks. I saw many people in their twenties attending the show.

About the photography:

I used my Canon EOS M3 with the 18-55mm lens. Small and easy to carry, plus the Irving Plaza does not let people in with professional cameras. I was there strictly as a concert goer and nothing more. I arrived early because it was general admission. I found a spot along the side of the room at stage left. There was a two tier standing bar and I positioned myself at the end closest the stage lower tier about 3 feet above floor level. So I had a great view of the stage, a place to rest my drink, camera & phone. And I was just above the heads of all the fans standing in front of the stage.

Camera settings: All my shot were captured at 1/125 sec in Tv mode. ISO was auto as was aperture. Most times ISO racked out to 6400 that was what I set the limit at and aperture would fall at f/5.6 which is the widest setting for that lens when zoomed to 55mm. If I captured a wide shot at let’s say 18mm the ISO would fall to 2500 sometimes and the aperture would fall to f/4.0.

So yes the shots are grainy with ISO noise but certainly not unusable or un-editable. And “yes” of course I captured everything in RAW. Even my worst image of the night was better than every iPhone or Android shot. I think the ISO grain gives a good feel to the shots.

 

 

Morning Smile ( Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.)

1/1000 sec at f/2.8 ISO 320 140mm

 

Ok so “street photography” is supposed to be for the most part an unmediated chance encounter.

While it borders on being “candid” there is still a difference. And for those who may not know; no you do not have to be in the street while capturing street style photography.

So let me talk about these two photos because they both are at the top of my all-time favorite street style shots.

I have blogged before about the morning in 2012 when I created a project where I would stand in the village street at the busiest time of the morning and I photographed everything that passed by or that came within 3 meters of me.

It was a lot of fun and I captured some real interesting images. Now first let me say that while most photographers will show their “street style” photography in black & white and I love my black & whites. However I have always had the mindset that because

Thailand is one of those places in the world that is so vibrant in color I personally feel I need to show the color. For street I try to refrain from using “saturation” but sometimes I will break that rule too.

1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 90mm

Ok so I love this image for mainly one reason and it is her smile. Her smile is so “in the moment” and natural. I did not know her nor did I think she was actually seeing me.

It is kind of hard to miss a big white guy standing in the middle of the street with a full frame camera and a 70-200mm lens.

With that said; many of the people who passed me by that morning never even looked my way, and again I was no more than 3 meters away.

So while I was shooting the burst of about 3 to 4 shots I remember seeing her smile in the view finder and I instantly thought “unusable” I’ll have to delete them because most times when people know your taking their photo… well it just doesn’t look natural.

But this was different because she was not moving slow and as she was approaching I was face away from her shooting something that had just went by. When I turned I had the camera already up and in position, essentially the total time was like 3-5 seconds.

So for her to see me and crack such a beautiful smile (and a peace sign) so quickly while her front passenger is more than clueless just adds to the excitement of these images. Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.

While the images are a little soft on focus the content more than makes up for the lack of sharpness, this is the case with many great street style shots.

 

So for those of you who know me personally and hear me talk about the village my wife is from… well this is a typical morning scene right outside our front door.