Have Camera, Will Travel

It’s Been a While Between Drinks

That’s not true. What I mean is that it’s been while since I promised to make regular postings on this blog. But I did get distracted for a few months.  I mentioned that I was going to suggest a reasonable camera to work with, even for those of you who are sensible enough not to use one at all.

From memory I said I was doing a lot of work with my phone. There’s a considerable amount of logic in that. It’s light, it”s usually with me, it’s unobtrusive, it delivers also really top quality and not a single editor has complained about the images. It’s now been something in the region of 30 years since I used exotic long lenses, or any exotic lens for that matter. Those were film days and, like the parrot who pines for the fjords, I pine for the film days.

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Taken in northern Laos with the iPhone 7+. An abstract snap and the last place I expected to find a pining parrot. I was attracted to the loose graphic layout and  colours. I carry the cage everywhere in case I need a prop 🙂

When it Comes to Cameras I’ve Been There, Done That

I had in mind that I would recommend a good camera for travel shooting and, if you are inclined, something to take pictures of sufficient quality to  back up written stories. I have a policy of not recommending equipment I haven’t had a reasonable degree of experience with which narrows it down to a small field of gear like rangefinder film Leicas, Nikon F and F2, a few 4×5 cameras and other stuff. All beautiful gear, all capable of producing very high quality images and all pretty much obsolete in this day and age.

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This is Joe Sommerville and Agnes. A favourite picture taken by Trish Ainslie and I while we worked on the book “’til She Dropped Her Strides”, a essay about the lifestyle in Australia’s Kimberley region. The camera was a tripod mounted  4×5 inch film Toyo.  These large cameras are fairly cheap to buy these days and produce exceptionally high quality images.

From a purely professional standpoint and, within that, the print media – newspapers and magazines, it’s worth looking at statistics. These days about 90% of people get their information from the internet and view it on a smart phone, a tablet, maybe a laptop and sometimes a desktop computer. Thus, in general terms, if you disregard the remaining viewers there’s not much sense in investing in exotic, expensive, digital equipment. A couple of reasons are that it can be very heavy when travelling around. It also makes you a target for rogues who know what equipment is worth and the large cameras can be very intrusive.

The Considerations Were Cost, Weight, Lens Quality, File Size and Ease of Use

I decided I wanted to play around with a broader range of lenses but didn’t want to spend huge money. That’s best spent on air fares and beer, not necessarily in that order. (see the previous post).

I had an idea of what I was looking for. It had to be small and light with a file size of about 15-20mp. There are many cameras around, borderline professional, cheap and with reasonable quality lenses which in the old language offer a zoom range of between  25 and 500mm. One such camera caught my eye (pardon the pun).

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Taken in Malaysia on Pulau Ketam. The woman had just walked out of the local temple to these massive incense sticks. They were back lit by early sun and really glowed. This was taken on the Lumix TZ90 set at about 500mm. Normally a lens of this focal length can suffer from camera shake but the Lumix has excellent inbuilt stabilisation I did carry a very small tripod in my luggage but didn’t bother to unpack it. In any event this was a picture opportunity which lasted ten seconds at best so it was a case of point and shoot.

It was awash with good revues  and had a feature which I knew I’d like – a flip up screen. This was the Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ90. That’s the Australian designation. In other areas it is the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70. It has a lens which goes from a very wide angle 24mm to a very long telephoto 720mm. The lens is not ‘fast’ and the sensor does not perform that well in very low light. That’s not an issue for me. I prefer to leave the darker hours to enjoy food and wine and not worry about what’s happening in dark spaces or the night sky. If you want ‘fast’ anything be prepared to raid your secret offshore bank account to raise the loot. There is no connection between PANAsonic cameras and the PANAma Papers (Though I’m not sure about that).

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Also taken on Pulau Ketam. A maze of jetties are connected in swampy mangroves by raised bridges so that fishing boats have access . The only means of transport is on foot, bike or electric scooters. Taken on the Lumix at about 300mm

The Final Choice – A Lumix TZ 90

Cutting a long story short I settled on the TZ90. Depending on where you live they cost around US$400 though while I write this it crosses my mind they out of production. Anyway the big feature for me was the flip up screen. It helped to me slow down while shooting, to compose carefully and also to be less obtrusive. There is a large range of Lumix travel cameras  worth careful consideration. But beware. Most of these cameras have too many features. The instruction book for the Lumix is about 500 pages. I have set my camera up for one channel whereby I can quickly change the ISO, the exposure compensation or focus point. You will need help even if you are a Rhodes Scholar.

I’ve now put in a few months travelling with this camera and am happy. I carry one battery and only one 16gb SSD card and a couple of 8gb. If I lose the card or it malfunctions they can be bought in pretty well any flea market in the known universe. I edit pictures most days, chucking out obvious junk and back up on the iPad and, more recently, the Cloud. I recharge the camera by plugging it into my Macbook. The battery lasts for pretty much a full day. I also recharge the iPad (and the iPhone) from the Mac.

On the last trip I did take the Macbook and the iPad as I was inclined to work on editing in the evenings. It’s easier on the Mac.  This set up cuts down on the number of leads and chargers I carry.

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The flip up touch screen on the Lumix helps to remain unobtrusive while shooting. It’s bright and clear . This guy was a fortune teller with a parrot who was trained to hop out of its cage and select a tarot card. (It didn’t seem to be pining for the fjords and it’s not even a Norwegian Blue).

In terms of the Lumix lens quality I’m not underwhelmed. It’s more than adequate though not in the league of top range Leica and Nikkor glass.

I haven’t referred back to my previous post but writing is important ( that’s where the dollars are these days) and for that I narrowed the task down to two bits of software to trial. I’ve now used both Scrivener and Ulysses. I found Scrivener offered far to much. It’s like Photoshop and Lightroom but for writers.  Ulysses has the obvious asset of being designed with solid German logic, no gimmicks. Again, I store the work on the cloud and anything which I write on one device is available on all the others, including the phone.

I’ll give a rundown on Ulysses in a later blog.

 

 

 

 

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Creative Accounting and Lightweight Travel.

Part One

TRAVELLING LIGHTER , TIGHTER AND BEING A WRITER   (with a bit of photography chucked in for good measure)

Learning to become a tight arse traveller, meandering slowly and smelling the roses, is akin to starting your own offshore tax haven. Don’t let that fool you. The fact is you may never earn enough money to pay tax. But so what? Eat your heart out, here’s my office.

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This is my second home, a bonus of creative accounting. It’s rent free so I have nothing to hide from the taxman. This a drone shot, not mine, I pinched it from a friend.

These days I’m learning a perverse logic:  You may as well not earn money at doing something you enjoy than not earn money doing something you don’t enjoy. Think about it!

I’ve never been mean, especially when it comes to spending Other People’s Money. Now, in the world of media’s changing economics and OPM vapourising, I’m learning to become lean and mean; a tight arse traveller. It takes practice but sooner or later  unique creative accounting falls into place. Not only that but it’s possible to earn a comfortable living. For example I don’t measure my economy in dollars and cents, rial, roubles, rupiah, kip or kyat, even though my best friend is a free currency converting App on the iPad.

THE NEW ECONOMY

My economy is measured in units of air fares and the cost of beer. There is no App for that yet.  One Air Fare Unit (AFU) is $250. A Unit of Beer (BU) is one dollar.

The process started in late 2008 when a global recession scattered freelance journalists and photojournalists in all directions. I was at a career point where I wanted to slow down a little. It was time for a change.

I found myself disliking driving. I’d been down the road of exotic cars, luxury appartments and had a trophy wife. I ‘let her go’ and she quickly married a Gucci. That has become the basis for a bigger story. I’m working on that.

Driving had been a passion but with crowded roads and traffic lights it had become frustrating. I was calculating how much I could sell my car for when somebody kindly drove theirs into the side of mine. The other driver should have become my new best friend. I would have bought him a few beers and traded girl friends because my car was deemed a write off and the insurers paid me twice what my asking price was going to be had I sold it. Suddenly I fell in love with an insurance company, that was a first, they can be very unlovable.

NEW FREEDOM, NEW LIFESTYLE

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New supermarket. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh fish. A weeks shopping costs about $15

Within a week the money was in a new account marked ‘Travel’. I woke to a new freedom, a new style of living. I had an old bike and a worn out travel bag which, at a squeeze, could accommodate a few T-shirts, shorts, jocks, toothbrush, shaving gear and pain killers. This kit was the framework for lightweight travel and a reasonable income.

The economic benefit was instant. No fuel bills, no massive service fees, no new tyres, no broken screens, no break-ins, no parking tickets, no speeding fines, no road tax, no depreciation, no insurance and no drink driving problems. That doesn’t mean no drinking. Collectively they save me a minimum of about $6000 a year.

I axed two daily newspapers, weekend papers and a few magazines saving another $2000 a year. My travel budget was now sitting on $8000 a year. Not a lot in the overall scheme of things but sufficient.

I had been travelling on OPM, staying in decent hotels, sometimes in exotic locations. I had every so often flown first class (nice); more often business class (nearly as nice) and sometimes cattle class;  not nice at all but I liked the passengers a great deal more.

I had spent years in Fleet Street, a nerve centre of journalism in those days, and was on the staff of a French magazine. After several years I went freelance, working on assignments, earning well, saving little but enjoying the freedom only a freelance journalist can enjoy. I then started working on a totally speculative basis, writing and illustrating self assigned stories.  My publication rate was high and I enjoyed more independence.

I’m an avid reader of Graham Green, Somerset Maugham and others who travelled and wrote about the region. Prompted by their influences I have let myself loose in SE Asia, an old territory of colonial France, Indochina. I saw a refreshed career as what the French fondly refer to as a flâneur; simply wandering streets and observing life, making a few notes, taking a few photographs.  I disciplined myself to write most evenings for an hour or so, usually in the company of  ice cold beer and a local meal.

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A sea level view of the office. My spot is on the extreme right, in that dark space.

As it happens Bali is only about three and a half hours by air from my Australian base so I made the island a second home. I can travel door to door, home to home, in about seven hours for  one AFU. Once there I stay in a delightful, clean and comfortable hotel. It has eight rooms and costs me ten bucks, about 10BUs, a night including breakfast and, importantly, a fast internet connection. Adding to the romance of the place is the rumour that it was formerly  a brothel.  I find that hard to believe as it has cold showers which could be counterproductive in some situations. I can live for about $200 a week on the island, including the hotel. That’s less than one AFU. People don’t believe me when I say I’m heading off to Bali to work. “Enjoy your holiday” they say. My office is a beach where I  write in a  warung, eat fresh fish daily with salads, rice and fruit and have a beer or two at about a dollar a bottle. That’s only 2BUs v 18BUs minimum in Australia.

I go to the morning market, buy fruit and chat to the locals who’ve named me ‘Poppa’, which I rather like. I buy fish to feed the hotel’s scrawny cats and frequently a kilo of rambutan when in season but the market is always full of fresh fruits. The fruit costs me about dollar, the fish about 20cents. In my local store, in Australia, rambutan is nearly $50 a kilo! Five kilos is an air fare! The more I eat the more I save.

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Erna and Made in their beachfront warung which doubles as my office. A decent lunch sets me back about  4BU of my creative travel currency. I do  a bit of writing, walk about twelve lengths of the beach, swim. There’s a secret trail though the trees along cliff top to the beach . It takes me about ten minutes to walk to the ‘office’.  

I’m digressing. This blog is aimed at people looking for an uncomplicated life, smelling the roses and earning a quid doing something they enjoy doing. So back to the travel light and write theme. Having spent several decades covering news and other events I was ready for a change. I have always written, always taken pictures. It was a useful combination and I see no reason to change that. This change in direction is to look at laid back stories, probably around travel, people I meet, food I eat. Like any good flâneur I have no sense of direction. I do have a list of ideas which tend to revolve around rivers, lakes, oceans, boats, beaches and palm trees. And a Happy Hour in a bar somewhere. So please feel free to watch this space.

WORKING KIT for WORDS

This is my basic working kit. I sometimes take a Macbook Air but generally find the basic iPad is sufficient. I carry a notebook and prefer the French Clairfontaine products as the paper is extraordinarily good for writing on. I used to use Moleskine but the paper is not in the same league and they cost nearly three times as much – about 33BUs against 12BUs. I like to write with a fountain pen and Clarefontaine paper doesn’t suffer from ‘show through’. Ink is often not practical in climates of high humidity either as the paper can get a little damp from sweaty hands. In that instance I use a highly treasured ball point pen. A few pencils and a sharpener are handy backups.

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Basic writing kit: I use the notebook as a scrap book too. On the left hand page I paste useful things like maps, menus, beer labels. Anything which may jog a memory. On the facing page I make notes. Each page is dated.
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The iPad and notebook are stored in lightweight nylon bag. Not totally waterproof but it could help. Pens, pencils, sharpeners are in a waterproof roll-up pouch. 

I’ll write about a photography kit in the next blog.  Cheers for now.

Roger Garwood. <rjgarwood@gmail.com>

Christmas Greeting from Down Under

I have just realised we have about three shopping days until Christmas and I haven’t made up my mind what to buy myself.

Apart from that, and in spite of my many notes to write a Christmas greeting, I’ve allowed my life to be taken over by too many coffees and cakes with friends, thus time retreated at warp speed.

Sometimes it was necessary to refuel with a glass of wine in the company of a friend or three, especially on a Sunday with Ted.  Ted, now retired, is using his drawing skills on a new project. He, like me, observes people and he enjoys making sketches of them. His new project is to observe and sketch people in wine bars and he has so far compiled a list of 70 bars in Perth and Fremantle. I haven’t seen many sketches but he’s gaining an encyclopaedic knowledge of wine.

It’s been a year of travel and broken resolutions. Why change the habits of a lifetime?

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I also had to renew my old passport which I’d grown rather fond of. It had about 100 little inked rubber stamped imprints in it (some countries are very mean) also a lot of those visas which look like badly forged bank notes and take up a full page. I like those, they make me feel I’ve actually been somewhere.

I found that I’d been away for over five of the past 12 months. A sort of record. My iPhone also tells me that I actually walked a total of 1679km on those travels. That is a record. I also made a lot of notes, took a lot of pictures and did very little with any of them. Time wasn’t entirely wasted though. I caught up with many friends I hadn’t seen for years as well as making the effort to meet friends from Facebook and various other bits of social media. Those adventures took me though Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. These are countries I tend to enjoy as they encourage me to re-read the old works of Graham Green, Orwell, Maugham and others who collectively help me feel as though I’m living in an exotic time warp. That’s if you call ten buck hotels with cold, mouldy, showers and beds which seem bigger than the rooms, so much so it’s impossible to walk around them, exotic. There’s also the added luxury of bath towels which are so thin they could be used as net curtains.
I remember my well travelled colleague Mac saying “You really know you’re travelling when you’re washing your socks and jocks in a bucket of water on a hotel balcony”. He’s right.

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Sunset over the Mekong at Luang Prabang

It’s been a year of highlights though I’m not sure  the offering of a  fried rat for lunch in the north of Laos was one of them. It did look tasty though, especially if you happen to be a cat.

A long trip down the northern section of the Mekong has made me plan an even slower trip next year.  Maybe it’s something about Lao hospitality but I was offered some deep fried insects by a lovely old lady en route.

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Lunch menu on the Mekong slow boat

I spent a couple of separate months in my favourite spot in Bali where an old mate, Chris, from our respective first marriage days took the trouble to fly from The Old Dart. Coincidently my photo buddy Mac came in from France. Say no more – we had one of the best weeks I can remember. Plenty of food, drink, many lies and much laughter. As long as we each manage to cling to our ageing bodily wreckage I hope we’ll be able to do it again. I may have to work a bit harder too!

I’ve been back in Fremantle for the past couple of months promising myself I’d write a lot more. I’ve got unfinished stories totalling over 30. That’s taking procrastination to extremes.

A couple of days ago I was exploring the town and was stopped by an elegant Chinese gentleman who questioned me about the abstract yellow paint on the walls in the High Street of the Fremantle’s West End.  I told him it was a little difficult to explain, though I did know preciselyy what it was about.

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I directed him to the bottom of the High Street, pointing out the steps to the old Round House prison and telling him to walk up the steps, turn around and look back. “All will be revealed” I said.

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This is a very clever piece of art work installed by  Swiss artist Felice Varini, who has produced geometric optical illusions around the world.

And so 2017 sped past and ’18 is on the doorstep. With that in mind I wish you all the healthiest and happiest New Year possible and I do hope that at least some of us can catch up somewhere other than on Facebook.

Take care, stay well, watch this space.

Bali Funeral

A Balinese funeral is a unique combination of the spirituality of Buddhist and Hindu rites which celebrate a person’s time on Earth and, more importantly, their transition to a life after death.

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Various elements of the funeral ceremony are spaced out over seven days. At one point relatives of the deceased walk around the funeral pyre carrying offerings and pictures of relatives

Tourists will be aware of the funeral ‘season’ on the tropical island by the visible presence of massive bamboo towers which will convey a body to a cremation. But these prominent structures are for wealthy Balinese. In most villages and towns throughout the island the cost of a funeral is shared between several families.

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The first part of the funeral starts, at about 3a.m. Each relative is disinterred and carefully wrapped in a white sheet before before lifted from the temporary grave and taken to an area of cemetery for cleaning.  There is a pervading,  sweet, smell of decay in the still morning air.

In a small coastal town which I look on as second home, a mass cremation is held about every three years. When a family member dies they are buried in a grave in the local cemetery.

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Family members take the skeletal remains, wrapped in a sheet, to an area for washing and preparing for the cremation.

This is a temporary resting place. Over three years enough relatives are ready to move on to a new life. In this ceremony, held in June last year (2016), 98 were cremated.

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During a ritual washing the skull is passed to family members to be kissed. 

The ceremonial process took seven days culminating in the Ngaben, the cremation, after which the ashes are divided between family members and taken to sea for a final scattering on the element of water, in this case the Badung Strait.

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Skeletal remains are ceremoniously laid out and scattered with flowers before being wrapped ready for cremation.
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As family names are called relatives carry their body,  ready for cremation, to be placed on the funeral pyre 
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A body is carried by family members to the funeral pyre
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Early in the day of the cremation a procession leaves the local temple. On this day effigies of 98 relatives were carried through the town.
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Hot, humid, days make it necessary for an occasional rest
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A priest from the temple blesses the pyre before the cremation

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Back to Back in Fremantle

I think most photographers have the work of the old master shooters firmly imprinted in their minds. Lisette Model was a photographer who’s simplicity of style appealed to me and some of her images of the backs of subjects have become icons.

I was wandering around Fremantle today and came across these two exuding inimitable style in the West End.

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The Black Madonna

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Each year the fishing community of Fremantle has two ceremonies to ensure the fishermen and their boats are safe and the catches are good throughout the season.

The smaller of the two festivals, held in honour of The Black Madonna, is on the second Sunday of September and celebrated by the small Portugese community who live in the city. The larger Blessing of the Fleet is held in late October and conducted by the entire fishing community, mostly from Mediterranean communities, principally Italian.

Several Masses are held in St Patrick’s Basilica and a procession leaves there to parade the Black Madonna around the city’s street during the afternoon. It is a time for the younger members of the community to play a part in their industry. Many of these kids would be descended from migrants who established the fishing industry in the 1920s and will mostly become fishers themselves.

 

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The parade consists of a hierarchy of young people. These boys are in uniforms of the  gendarmery who will protect the parade

 

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It is one of the communities great honours to be able to carry one of several banners paraded through the streets

 

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Portuguese national costume is worn by many of the children

 

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Three elders of the Portuguese community stop at the half way point of the parade for a  fireworks display

 

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Banners paraded through the local city’s local shopping streets

 

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Children in national costume carry a set of ornamental fishing floats attached to a Crucifix

 

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The Black Madonna

 

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The fireworks, mainly firecrackers, put on a very noisy show. The kids tend to block their ears, some don’t like them at all and some are stoic.
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The Black Madonna, the Portuguese fishing communities treasured icon, passes through Fremantle’s West End, an enclave of heritage architecture from the gold rush days of the late 1800s

Bali and Beyond

Sea Change on the Horizon

The past few months have been the beginning of a watershed. A slight change of life style and direction. Only slight of course, I don’t like drama.

I have been living in Fremantle, Australia, for close to 40 years. Those years have been great fun, sometimes profitable and sometimes a touch irritating when it comes to glancing at the pile of bills alongside the bank statement. I imagine a few people experience that feeling.

I’ve pretty much covered Australia from top to bottom and side to side. Produced a number of books and written umpteen articles about everything from mining, agriculture, prospecting, cattle rustling, rodeos, fishing, pearling, diamonds … it goes on.

Now, with massive changes in the media resulting from new technology, great changes in photography for similar reasons and changes in my mind for no particular reasons, I have made a decision to take a sideways shift in lifestyle.

Bali, peaceful and charming

Fremantle is a little over three hours flying time from Bali, a place I enjoy for it’s laid back lifestyle, peaceful culture and charm. Thus I thought “Why not work from Bali?” It costs very little to live here in reasonable comfort and it is a convenient  point to reach pretty well anywhere in Asia. So now I’m spending a few weeks here looking for a suitable place with two or three bedrooms, a swimming pool and space for an office. Thus I can live a ‘fly in fly out’ lifestyle and friends are welcome to drop in when they wish.

The idea is to carry on doing what I do, produce a few more books of one sort or another, write a few articles and not make any rigid rules. I don’t do stress.

I’ve also made a commitment to shoot more film, black and white, as well as the digital colour  necessary for articles. More on that later but I have bought myself a rather indulgent Christmas present. I’ll show and tell in a later post, probably mid January.

Here’s the view from what I refer to as my ‘Lunch Office’. I also have a ‘Coffee Office’ and a little further down the road a ‘Beer Office’.

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I confess that I do enjoy taking snaps on my iPad. This was a straight shot which went through a sort of random button pressing process on the  Snapseed App which is far more entertaining than any computer games.

At the Top End of The Dragon

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. The WordPress App is a real bugger to operate and I had to trash the last post as the pictures were too small. Naturally it transpired it was my fault. At some moment in time I’d changed the picture size, then couldn’t find out how to change it back.
Anyway, I think I’d said that this trip has been a photographic smorgasbord, a real feast, and rather than write a lot of guff off said I’d post a few pictures taken thus far. They are not necessarily my favourite shots but are among those I really enjoy.
I did however find it relatively easy to put captions into place and also admitted that I had used what I call the ‘dynamite’ button on the Snapseed App on a few of them. Probably all of them if I think about it.

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this was another picture taken from what transpired to be a series of musicians in a Saigon park

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Markets are always a happy hunting ground for pictures. This was taken in Hoi An, famous for it’s cloth market but in this case I was more interested in the garlic and the knife which had been used by the stall holder for the best part of her life.

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I was walking around the back streets of Quy Nhon one night when I looked though the door of what I assumed was an abattoir and saw this cow, I assume it was a cow, who was beyond help. I asked a guy, who happened to be holding a large knife, if he’d mind me taking a picture. I hated to think of the consequence of upsetting him.

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This was the smiling face of sting ray in the fish market on a bank of The Pearl River in Hue

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And this is The Pearl River

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This woman was making fish cutlets while talking with a few customers. One of them was smoking and the smoke drifted into the picture, adding a little extra. Sometimes I like smokers.

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I couldn’t resist this shot. An old fellow was resting beside his market stall and had propped his feet on his scales. After I’d taken the picture I asked if he minded. He was delighted and happily posed for a portrait but it didn’t match this shot.

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While speaking of smokers, which I was, this was an offering at a small temple.

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Eat your heart out … this is the view from my hotel window in Sapa.
all pictures copyright Roger Garwood 2013

Saigon and Heading North: 3

Actually this is the last part of a blog I started a few days ago. I had to divide it into three sections as I was having problems. I’ve also added a bit.

A few weeks ago I was holding a workshop at the Ballarat Foto Biennale. I was fairly happy with the way the workshop operated and particularly happy to have been at the festival. Being able to view the work of a lot of talent is inspiring and every time I go to a festival I find a little bit of inspiration rubs off and sticks. Apart from that I caught up with many friends I hadn’t seen for years. I’ll come back to that in a later blog.

As it happens I’m in Vietnam in blistering heat and humidity and loving it. I’m getting a swag of pictures and a few of them I’m very happy with – I haven’t shown them here yet but will wait until I get a proper edit finished.

I also get a bit of entertainment with them, playing around with the baby brother of Silver Efex – Snapseed, a great App for the iPad and a lot more fun than computer games. I’ve included a few pictures, more or less at random, in the blog. I’ve played around with them a little and will try and get a few more off in a couple of days.

A couple are shown here, before and after versions.

Snapseed – The App of Choice>

I’m a fairly judicious shooter, having been trained on 4×5 sheet film and roll film. I also edit in the camera during a coffee break, simply deleting the junk (and there can be a fair amount). Then, at the end of a day, I sit and download a few of the better pictures on to the iPad.

I also get a bit of entertainment with them, playing around with the baby brother of Silver Efex – Snapseed, a great App and a lot more fun than computer games. I’ve included a few pictures, more or less at random, in the blog. I’ve played around with them a little and will try and get a few more off in a couple of days.

A couple are shown here, the before and after versions. I explained previously that I’m shooting with the Leica X2. I have the camera ‘de-tuned’ as I call it. It has been set on ‘Low Contrast’, ‘Low Saturation’ and the lowest sharpening. When shooting with film, especially in contrasts light, it is a battle to retain a full dynamic range between the highlights and shadows. As a general rule it’s easier to print contrast up rather than cut it back. I find the same applies when shooting digitally. Thus I find the X2 delivers a very nice working jpg in most situations. Sometimes I like to help it along.

This picture was taken a few day ago at Hoi An. It’s a bit of tourist trap but the great pleasure is that all traffic, other than push bikes, is banned from the old city’s streets. This shot is taken along the river and I have to confess it’s a bit of theme park, the sort of place I avoid, but it’s done well.

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Then, for the hell of it, I tried the image in Snapseed, just using the ‘dynamic’ feature. The result was surprising and I felt: ‘Huh! Couldn’t, really have done better in the darkroom’.

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I’m inclined to feel it is a little bit overworked but I can live with that.
Here’s another original followed by the the dynamited version.

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Finally, a picture taken on the other side of town, out of theme park. This has also had the Dynamic button applied.

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And in case you hadn’t guessed I admit to playing around with the borders a bit.
So long for now. It’s about beer o’clock.

Saigon and Heading North: 2

Well, after yesterday’s attempts at getting a blog out I’ve decided that for the rest of this trip it should be a blogette. Little and oftenish. This is going out on the WordPress App (I hope). It’ll be more of what I tried to get out yesterday.

Today I came up the coast from Hoi An to Hue where I,m ensconced in a really top hotel which is setting me back the the best part of twenty bucks a night … cheaper than being at home. And there are bowls of fruit, complimentary drinks and views over the city chucked in.

Anyway, enough of that:

Once more on the Dragon Trail

Again, I’m chasing dragons in Vietnam and after a few days in Saigon meandered up the coast and am now in the old town of Hoi An whose principle purpose seems to be a training ground for touts offering everything from cold beer to hot women. Thus far I’ve fallen for the former but avoided the latter. In fact I shouldn’t be too flippant. The people are delightful; friendly, really hard working and obviously trying to make a quid. I wish I had their tenacity and patience.

It’s becoming obvious that this and the previous trip will produce enough material for a book. It’s a photographic smorgasbord which has me being very critical of myself in that it’s difficult to get anything different. How on Earth do you avoid cliches? How do you get pictures which are remotely different? I wish I knew.

Leica X2

I decided to use one camera, the Leica X2 which has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens and does produce remarkable quality. It’s light, it seems to be bullet proof (I’ve dropped it twice) and just feels good. The focussing is very fast in most conditions and I do like the manual exposure control as well as the spot meter though for the most part I use a fixed shutter speed and leave the aperture on auto. I also have an optical finder which I tend to use happily in much the manner of my M6s.

When on these trips I don’t back up. It just means carrying more gear and wasting more time. I take a handful of 4gb cards and use about two a day when in what I call ‘shooting mode’ (as opposed to eating, sleeping, drinking, travelling mode). That equates to roughly six rolls of 35mm film a day which is about what I used per day in the good times. I use 4gb cards for two reasons. Each will burn perfectly on to a CD and if I happen to lose one it’s not the end of the world.

I had intended to shoot film on this trip, being addicted to TMax 400. However a touch of common sense did prevail so I’m shooting with the X2 set on RAW plus high quality black and white jpgs. A point which has a largely been overlooked by reviewers of the X2 and other Leica digital cameras is the phenomenal in-camera jpg processing. The software built into these cameras all makes post processing redundant unless, like me, you feel like going a bit silly now and then.

Here are a few random shots from the past week or so. I may not be able to get captions on them and, if it proves to be a problem, won’t even try. Please feel free to have a guessing game.

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Loved this group in one of Saigon’s Parks. At weekends, particularly on a
Sunday, the open spaces are full of people of all ages socialising and generally speaking enjoying life.

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While on the theme of in park entertainment there happened to be a small park at the back of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music from where students would wander out and have impromptu rehearsals and micro concerts.

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And this one is just to underline the musical theme

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This was taken in a back street in Quy Nhon. I was walking past and found this man operating a lathe. The whole thing was incongruous in that his workshop was set in a row of general shops selling anything from umbrellas to bits of pigs.

All pictures copyright Roger Garwood 2013