We’ve been home now for just over 2 weeks and I’m still going through all the shots I took during our Asia trip. We flew to Hong Kong then after 1 full day and 2 nights, we were off to Bangkok for 4 days. I really wish we had stayed a full week or more but we were fitting in 3 cities in 2 weeks with the majority of time in Hong Kong.
After arriving in Bangkok and checking into our hotel, we ventured out to see the area where we were staying. Right next to the hotel was a narrow side street that we took a walk down and were immediately struck by the contrast to our 5 star lodgings next door. It was a good example of inner city poverty. I wished we had someone with us that could speak Thai as I really wanted to talk to some of the people we saw there.
For someone who comes from a smaller city, on the world stage at least, Bangkok is amazing. I never left the hotel without at least 1 camera, day or night. It was difficult resisting the urge to photograph everything I saw. It was all new to me and I ended up with many photo’s that I’ll never post but I will view them myself as every one brings me back to the place. I have to confess, that during our first night out around town, my initial feeling was ‘Blade Runner’. I felt like I had just walked into a real life version of the movie. The huge TV billboards lighting the streets, along with the regular billboards everywhere, and the endless crowds seemed so surreal and gave a certain look and feel to the streets. Also, the vendors set up on the sidewalks selling everything from dinner to clothes to electronics added another dimension to experiencing the city. Even some of the graffiti made an interesting photo.
I guess for me, one of the most amazing things about this city was the sidewalk food vendors. If you take a walk during lunch or dinner times, it seemed like every sidewalk was full of them and every one of them was busy. In many places, it was almost impossible to walk down the sidewalk because of the vendors and customers. The varieties of food was vast and the smells were mouthwatering. I have to confess that I stuck to restaurants for my meals though as I’m a bit of a ‘hot n spicy’ wimp and not speaking the language, wouldn’t be sure of what exactly I would be getting. Also, I didn’t want to risk getting sick on something my system couldn’t handle that could ruin my short time there.
I did learn a valuable lesson in keeping properly hydrated the first day we were there as I didn’t drink near enough fluids and ended up missing the second day’s outings with our group. I was fine by lunch time though and went out to do some street shots. I made sure I consumed a lot of water and Gatorade while exploring and never had that problem again.
One of the other activities we enjoyed was riding on the river. There are numerous options for river transportation and it’s also a great way to get around to different areas of the city. Another bonus is you never know what you might see along the way.
I couldn’t believe what was pulling that enormous barge train.
Of course you also see all types of boats, mostly for shuttling tourists around.
There are many interesting sites along the riverside too. One disadvantage my travel camera kit has is the lack of a telephoto lens. I would rarely use it but it would have been handy during these river excursions. I did however have my Canon G1X along, mainly for grabbing video, and this does have a zoom lens that had a bit more reach than my longest Fuji lens.
In part 2 of this blog, I’ll touch on some of the sites we toured while in Bangkok.
A new site I have created to showcase my work done with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujifilm X100s cameras.
Prior to leaving on our last trip, I did the most research on our destinations that I have ever done. For us, this was a big trip and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. To start, I found a really good site called http://www.tripomatic.com. This lets you build itineraries off of the maps of the city you are interested in. It shows points of interest, hotels, landmarks and transit stations. I spent a lot of time building itineraries for both Paris and London. Did we follow those itineraries? For the most part, no. But they were our guidebooks on things we wanted to see and where they were. We still saw pretty well everything that was on the itineraries, but due to inclement weather or other factors, not in the order, or necessarily on the day that it was planned for. Trying to stay on the itinerary schedule would have been very difficult and would have effected the enjoyment of the trip. By playing it loose and sometimes going elsewhere, we found things that weren’t planned for and had fun just exploring.
I also did other research. One of the most valuable bits of work I did was finding online and studying the transit maps for both the Paris Metro and London Underground or Tube. The maps look pretty imposing at first but once you get the hang of how they work and follow the color coding, you soon discover that it is pretty easy to figure out how to get pretty much anywhere you want to go. We found the service to be excellent (compared to what we have at home) and while in London, took advantage of the Oyster card program. This saved us money and it prevented a lot of frustration in regards to not having to buy tickets for each trip. We even took the tube out to the airport when we went home and saved a huge amount. In Paris we purchased a set of 10 tickets for each of us and that saved us a bit and again eliminated the frustration of trying to buy tickets for each journey.
Before leaving home for this trip, I was able to purchase a map of each city. I studied them quite a bit and when we were in each city, the matching map was always with me. Both maps are now showing signs of heavy wear and tear. One thing I did find was that it usually took awhile to get my bearings when we came out of the Metro or Tube. My internal compass failed me and I chastised myself for not bringing along my real compass. But once I got a sense of which direction was north, we were back on track.
A big advantage to the early research was being able to find a reasonably priced hotel that was well located. Many of the sites we went to see were a reasonable walking distance. The tripomatic site connects to the hotel booking site so it wasn’t too difficult selecting our rooms. We did this 6 months in advance though and were glad we did. Hotel rooms in good locations at a reasonable price are hard, if not impossible, to get the closer you are to your trip date. Even with a 6 month lead, rooms were starting to fill up. In Paris, we were a 10 min walk to the Louvre and Seine River. It was an ideal location for us. In London we were right beside St. Pauls and again found this to be a great location.
The above shot was taken just a 15 min walk from our hotel in Paris.
Another type of research we did, I say ‘we’ because my wife did most of this, was to go on youtube and check out videos of places we might be interested in. These were mostly of the markets. Museums and monuments are interesting but the markets are great fun. By seeing videos of the markets, we were able to decide which to skip and which were a must see. My favorite turned out to be the Stables Market in London. Unfortunately, some of the vendors were not ‘photographer friendly’ but I still loved the atmosphere of the place.
Stables Market, London – Fuji X100S
In summary, I have to state that the research we did was well worth the effort. We managed to see all our must-see items, most of our like-to-see items, and discovered a lot just by exploring and being willing to treat our itineraries as a loose guideline instead of a hard schedule. We had 6 months to prepare and in my opinion, that is a good amount of time to do all the planning. Of course it wasn’t full time work, but an easy pace doing a bit on most evenings after work. Also, that amount of lead time allowed us to be somewhat picky on our accommodations. By studying and understanding the transit systems, we had no problems getting around right from the time we landed. Lastly, the one thing I didn’t mention yet is that google maps is your friend. In a lot of my location research, I would go to google maps street view and ‘walk’ around getting familiar with different landmarks. On a couple of occasions, this also let me discover another site that needed to be visited. By doing our research in this manner and pace, we avoided getting burned out by it and we ended up having a wonderful trip.
I hope you may have gleaned some ideas from this post that may help in your future explorations.
So, do I process the image as color or black & white? This is a question I ask after choosing one of the images from my day of shooting. A lot of times I choose color because when traveling to a new place, the colors are an integral part of my first impressions and the feel of the location. A color image gives a real life representation in a photographic format. “This is what I saw so this is what I’m showing to you.” When sharing travel images, this can be important because for some, that image is the only representation they will ever see of that place so including all aspects of the scene, including the various colors, is essential.
There are images where I have made the effort to get out early in the morning to capture the scene in a certain light. With these images, color is an important part of the composition. I do consider color or Black & White as composition elements that need to be considered when making my images.
So why do I process a lot of my shots as black & white? Well sometimes the colors are out of whack or practically nonexistent like in some of my nighttime photos. Sometimes, the colors are very distracting and overwhelm the subject that I’m actually trying to convey. And sometimes I just like the look of black & white for that particular image. In these cases, it is purely subjective based on my tastes. It is my image after all. No one paid me to get the image. I took it simply because I wanted that image and I made it black & white because I prefer the look of it in black & white or something inside me said that it just needed to be black & white. This should be true for anyone taking pictures of anything. They are your pictures and unless you are hired to take them, you should process them based on how you feel about the image.
Lastly, I love to experiment. Sometimes you can really discover something new in you image and also, it’s a lot of fun.
There have been times when I took a shot thinking it would be a black and white image but after getting it on the computer decided to keep it color.
As a footnote, I have to add that on one trip to Puerto Vallarta I took along 2 film cameras, a Voigtlander R4a rangefinder and a Canon F1 SLR. I also took 10 rolls of film, 2 color and 8 black and white. I scanned the negatives into the computer for processing. In the case of color film, I have a choice of keeping them color or processing them in Black & White. I don’t have that choice with the Black and White film but it gives me a unique look to the image that I have not been quite able to duplicate with digital camera shots. That unique look is also true in the case of the color images when using certain films. Finally, by shooting film I am forced to slow down, think about what I’m doing to nail the exposure and the content I want in the image. I only have 36 shots and no immediate feedback from a screen on the back of the camera. I won’t know if I got it right until the film gets developed so I better be sure I’ve got the settings right to the best of my ability. I also learn to ‘see’ in black and white when I am composing my images and have some idea of what the final image will be. Maybe I’ll do a separate blog on the benefits I have gotten from shooting film.
That concludes this blog. I hope you found it informative and interesting. I do need to stress that these are just my opinions and how I work and think. Everyone is different and if your thinking and opinions are different, that’s great. That’s why we have such variety in life. I think that knowing or hearing (reading) what others feel makes us reflect and refine our own methods and way of thinking.
Besides my beautiful wife, Loretta, there are two things I have come to love and they go hand in hand together. Traveling and Photography. Prior to 2000, I had not done any traveling outside of Canada and what traveling I did do was for visiting family and friends. In 2000, Loretta and I went to San Jose del Cabo in Mexico and from that day on, I was hooked.
In the area of photography, I had been an film photographer from the time I as 16 when I picked up my first 35mm SLR camera. It was a Zenit and was my only camera until 1982 when I picked up a Canon AE-1. For the next few years I was quite enthusiastic about photography but never did enough or became good enough to make it a career. By the mid 1990’s my gear basically sat packed away.
In 2008 I got married. When we were at our first interview with our photographer, I started getting that photo-bug again. Prior to leaving for Cuba, where we were getting married, I picked up a Canon Rebel to take along. That was the start of getting really serious about photography. It was a slow start but in 2011 something clicked and I began to really start studying everything I could find on the web and in books and really just getting out and shooting. It has been growing exponentially since then. It has been 3 years of experimenting, learning, acquiring equipment, more learning, more experimenting, highs, lows, and a whole lot of watching others and absorbing information.
All the time that I was getting serious, we were also traveling. Mexico is our default holiday destination having multiple visits to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and San Jose del Cabo. We also visited Cuba, Las Vegas and The Bahama’s. Our most recent trip was to Paris and London. I’m still culling through the massive amount of pictures taken over 2 weeks in those cities. For the last year and 4 trips that we have taken, I haven’t had either of my DSLR camera’s with me. For travel the Canon 60D and 5D Mark III with lenses are just too much bulk and weight to carry around. They are also very imposing when trying to do street photography. I have gone over to the Fuji X system for my travel kit. They are small, light(er), and give me great results, especially in low light. They are much less imposing when doing street photography too. They are the right tool for the job.
So, in a nutshell, this is what this blog is going to be about. I will pull some images from a trip and talk about the trip and the equipment. There will be no particular order of our trips but will be what I want to show and talk about for that particular post. It will not be strictly about the place or the equipment I was using. It will be me sharing my thoughts and perhaps some may find that interesting. That’s it for my intro blog other than sharing a couple of images from our recent trip.