Leo Laksi’s Bangkok And Back

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

A wet Songkhran on Silom Road today

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"Backpack tank for squirt gun"

"Backpack tank for squirt gun"

"Wet n wild"

“Wet n wild”

For the first time in ten years, I celebrated Songkhran, the Thai New Year, in Thailand.  Usually I duck the holiday by travelling abroad for the first two weeks in April.  This year I cancelled a trip to Japan and found myself spending this week in Bangkok.

"Getting ready to squirt"

"Getting ready to squirt"

Usually people in Bangkok celebrate on Silom or Khao San Road.  It’s one big water fight with all manner of water weapons, from the smallest squirt gun to a shoulder weapon that is similar in size to a RPG launcher.  Some celebrants resort to throwing ice cold water from buckets.  And then there’s the fire hydrants.  Quite a wet day.  Nowadays, partiers also smear a water-soluble powder on faces as you can see from some of these photos.

Silom was closed to traffic for the day and there must have been fifty thousand “water babies” engaging in hand to hand combat at five paces with water guns.  And the smeary powdery liquid.  Although it sounds like the makings of a disaster, it was great fun.

For today’s raucous time, I used my Nikon D300s and the AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR zoom lens.  I didn’t want to risk other more expensive lenses, knowing that the lens (and camera) would get a soaking.  As a ready holster, I used my waterproof Ortlieb shoulder bag, unzipped.  Although the camera came under some “attack” from the squirt guns, all in all, it survived with no problems.  After I reached home, I thoroughly dried the camera and lens.  Good as new.

At times, I thought I should have brought another lens or two (14-24 or 24-70 zoom lenses) but felt it was wiser to restrict potential disaster to one lens.  Afterwards I realized that I should have used my AF-D 28-200mm f3.5-5.6 for its wider angle instead of the 70-300.  Oh well, there’s always next year.

"Posing for the pic"

"Posing for the pic"

"Didn't get me"

"Didn't get me"

"Time to get wet"

"Time to get wet"

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Written by leolaksi

April 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Part 2.Photographic gear to take on upcoming trip to Cambodia and Laos

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Cambodian farmer

Cambodian farmer

As noted last weekend, I have a trip planned for next week to visit some areas of Cambodia and Laos that receive very few visitors.  Rather than visiting Angkor Wat and Luang Prabang with its high volume tourists, I have developed an alternate trip.   I will travel overland up the Mekong River from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Don Khong, Laos.  Between the two points are some of the most spectacular scenery in Southeast Asia.  From the flooded forests of Steng Trung to the waterfalls south of Don Khong, one will be at a loss for words when faced with nature’s beauty.

I have spent the last two weeks, using, testing and evaluating my equipment for this journey.  Space is not an issue, however I wanted to downsize my kit for this trip.  So far, I have decided to bring:

Nikon D700

Nikon D300s

Nikkor AF-D fisheye 16mm lens

Nikkor AF-S 14-24 f/2.8 zoom lens

Nikkor AF-S 24-70 f/2.8 zoom lens

Nikkor AF-S 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens

Nikkor AF-D 85mm f/1.4 lens or Sigma 50 EX DG HSM  f/1.4 lens

Hammock time.

Hammock time.

Obviously the three zoom lenses were selected so that the focal range from 14mm -450mm (DX 1.5 crop) is covered. I was not so concerned with the 70-300 lens’ lack of wider aperture as much as the weight of my 80-200mm f/2.8 or the 70-200 f/2.8.  I expect the lighting to be sufficient so as not to cause the 70-300 any issues.  The 85mm or the 50mm will come along for their lower light capabilities as a hedge against darker conditions along the water.  And the fisheye solely because I enjoy the results of that lens.

Beyond the cameras and lenses are a whole host of other gear which I will discuss in my next posting.

Photographs were taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor AF-D 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens and Leica M8 and Summicron 35mm f/2 lens.

Written by leolaksi

January 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Part 1. Planning a trip up the Mekong River – From Phnom Penh to Pakse

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Map of Cambodia

Map of Cambodia

Several years ago I began thinking about a trip up (or down) the Mekong River from its source on the Tibetan Plateau 4350 kilometers away from its delta near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.  It’s a river diverse with flora and fauna, sadly under attack by countries along its length for its hydroelectric potential.  Of course “hydroelectric potential” translates into damming the river.

Before the Mekong “disappears” under one dam project after another, I decided that I must see the river.  The upper reaches of the river have been subjugated by dams in China.  The lower reaches are still dam free although for how long is subject to discussion.

I am kicking off this discovery in early February with a leg known for its magnificent waterfalls in southern Laos and the Irawaddy dolphins, a endangered species that still lives in small numbers in this area of the Mekong River. I will be traveling by car from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Pakse, Laos.  Along the way I intend to tweet my journey and post to this blog.  The objective of the trip is to photograph the waterfalls, the river, and life along the river.

This trip will head north east via highway 7 to Kratie, famous for its small pod of  Irawaddy dolphins, then thru the town of Stung Treng before crossing the border into Laos.  Between the border and Don Khong are the mighty waterfalls that brought the French ambition to travel by ship to interior China to a dead end.

In Part 2 of this series, which I will post in the coming days, I will discuss the equipment I am bringing on this trip.

Written by leolaksi

January 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Sunflowers in Thailand with Nikon D700 – a rainy day.

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Sunflowers on a rainy day.

Sunflowers on a rainy day.

One of the most popular pastimes this time of year is to drive to the Saraburi area 100 km north of Bangkok to look at the planted fields of sunflowers.  I’m talking about sunflower fields that sometimes nearly touch the horizon.  In sunny weather, these flowers broadly open and track the sun from sunrise to sunset.  At night and in less than ideal conditions, the flowers slightly close up so that their appearance isn’t as spectacular.

On this day, there was an uncharacteristic steady fall of rain that detracted from their appearance.  And heavy cloud cover.   However, rain (or water) can add a sheen and a richness in color that can be beautiful.

In sunny weather, you might consider bringing a water mister on your next outing for sunny flower photos.   And water drops can be beautiful.

Photos taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor Fisheye AF-D  16mm f2/8 or Nikkor AF-D 85mm f/1.4 lenses. Sunflowers located in the Khao Yai area of Thailand.

Written by leolaksi

January 10, 2010 at 9:36 am

Put a little motion in your photos – prefocus and slow speed.

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Slow shutter speed gaurantees visible motion in street photos.

Slow shutter speed guarantees visible motion in street photos.

In the digital age, it’s much easier to experiment and develop your own style.  You take the shot and then you instantly review the results.  Nothing could be easier than that, right?  With super accurate autofocus and precise metering DSLRs, one is in a position to take that perfect shot.  And stopping motion.  Try your hand at something just a bit different.  Try taking a shot where motion is an element of the picture.  In other words, you want to see motion.  It seems unnatural in some ways but you may find yourself taking flawed but still interesting photographs.  And motion-oriented photos do convey a feeling.

These photos were taken a couple of months ago with a Leica M8 and Carl Zeiss Biogon 21mm f/2.8 lens.  I prefocused the camera and set the aperture speed at 1/45 and 1/60 sec.  I shot from the hip, through the viewfinder and then over head.  I can’t guarantee your results but you may find yourself taking photos that will be out of the ordinary.

The "hand-twirled" ice cream maker in motion.

The "hand-twirled" ice cream maker in motion.

Camera high overhead and prefocused.

Camera high overhead and prefocused.

Food on face.

Food on face.

Old school look.

Old school look.

Written by leolaksi

January 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm

More photos with the Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens.

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Pass on by.

Pass on by.

I’ve having so much fun with this fisheye lens.   For me, it’s important to have a subject in the foreground as it draws the viewer into the photo.  The placement of the subject can be experimented with.  Remember that distortion is less in the center of the frame than the edges  where the barrel distortion becomes obvious.   And the more you shoot, the better your photo becomes.   Ideally this lens is at its sharpest around f/7 and a couple of stops past.

Photos taken with Nikon D700 and Nikkor AF 16mm f/2.8 D fisheye lens.

Grilled pork.

Grilled pork.

Near and far.

Near and far.

Motorcycle taxi.

Motorcycle taxi.

Really a Christmas tree.

Really a Christmas tree.

Written by leolaksi

December 28, 2009 at 12:20 am

Nikon D700 with Nikkor AF 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens in Bangkok

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Focuses attention on the subject.

No, the dog is not that LARGE.

Fisheye lenses have always been a bit difficult to figure out and most photographers don’t get beyond the relegation of this type of lens to the “don’t have to have” bin.  With it’s extreme barrel distortion, images take on a look that are far beyond an accurate depiction of the captured scene.  Straight lines on the edges bend and curve to the point that sometimes the lens becomes little more than a novelty act.

Yet fisheyes can be useful in drawing one’s attention to the subject of the photo.  Since distortion isn’t  quite as severe towards the center of the photo, that part of the image can retain a connection to the actual appearance of your target.  With slight distortion still present, it lends a perspective that is familiar yet somewhat different.  It’s in these situations the fisheye is at its best.

Photos taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor AF 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens.

Chinese doughnuts in the round.

Chinese doughnuts in the round.

Centered on the vendor.

Centered on the vendor.

Street vendor.

Street vendor.

Plain bagel.

Plain bagel.

Written by leolaksi

December 21, 2009 at 7:01 pm