Random Photos

Along the way, I take photos that I find interesting, but which do not fit into the theme of other entries. Still, I thought they were worth sharing with you.


Graffiti in San Francisco, painted on a wall across the street from the United States Mint.



Japanese maple in the sunshine in Sacramento, California.



A rose in full bloom in the California State Capitol Building gardens.



The rusted roof of a van in a condo parking lot in Kihei, Maui, Hawai’i.



Rusted chain in the tidepools along downtown Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i.



An elephant doll dressed as Santa Claus floats in the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.



A three-month old beagle plays with a seed pod at the Ma Du Zi Hotel in Bangkok.


Marriage on the Rails

A few weeks back, while on the bicycle ride that led to me writing the “Land Use in Central Thailand” blog entry, I passed by a couple who were getting their wedding portraits taken on a railway bridge that parallels Kampheng Phet Soi 7, a back road that is wide, not very busy, and thus ideal for cycling.


It is common in Thailand (and, from my experience, many other parts of Asia) for couples to have their wedding portraits taken many weeks in advance of their wedding.  This way the photos can be used for invitations as well as displayed at the wedding reception.  These photos often seem a little like Glamour Shots, the “makeover” portrait studios at a mall near you.  Of course, it is for their wedding, a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event, so a little glamour is perfectly alright.

Interestingly, this train track is very active – a few dozen passenger trains a day running to the east and northeast – so I was of course concerned about the admonition I’ve been told since I was a young child: don’t play on the train tracks!

The viaduct overhead is the Airport Rail Link, which like the railroad on which the photos are being taken is owned and operated by the loss-making State Railways of Thailand.  The viaduct further in the background is the “Second Stage” or “Rama IX” Expressway, which runs to the airport.


Fire and Light Part 2

While I eventually stopped burning rubber cement to illuminate my photos, my interest in light, movement, and extended exposure didn’t wane.  For some shots, it was a matter of holding the camera steady by hand, without the use of a tripod, just long enough for a slight sense of motion.  For other shots, a tripod was still necessary.


This photo is actually upside down.  It is the reflection in the mirrored ceiling of the pedestrian tunnel that connects the two concourses of Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.  The focus is on the reflection rather than the neon tubes of the light sculpture.


Christmas lights in suburban Kansas City.  I printed this up and used it for handmade holiday cards one year.  Same effect as the Golden Gate Bridge photo in the previous entry, except I was rotating the tripod almost the entire time.


This photo was shot at a county fair in Oregon the summer of 1988.  I was there as part of a family reunion on my mother’s side and there was a fair near the town we stayed in.


A Flying Tigers B-747 takes off on runway 1R at San Francisco International Airport.  Instead of moving the camera, as I did in the Golden Gate Bridge and Christmas photos, the camera remained fixed on the tripod while the plane moved.  The Flying Tigers logo is visible because the plane pulled into position at the threshold of the runway and stopped for about fifteen seconds before releasing the brakes and taking off.  The red dots above the line of the fence are from the strobe light on top of the plane, which blinked as the plane taxied.


In March 2001, I shot this photo of Tawn on top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  This was a handheld shot with an exposure of about 1/15th of a second.  I used a flash so that the image of Tawn would be fixed and sharp but the background and the railings would have a sense of movement.


That same evening I took this picture at the base of the Eiffel Tower.  Thousands of strobe lights were flashing at 8:00 pm and I shot the exposure at about a half-second handheld while the strobes fired.  This picture captures exactly how this first trip to Paris felt for me.   


I even experimented a bit with extended exposures in Bangkok before I moved here.  This photo was taken in the same alley I visited for last month’s entry about the Old Market in Yaoworat.  This picture from that entry must have been taken within a dozen meters of the above picture.  Funny that some seven or more years later – probably closer to nine! – I went back to the same alley and took more pictures.  I particularly liked how the sky was still purple in the background.


This shot was taken the same evening in the same area, along the main road that cuts through Yaoworat (Chinatown).  I found it fascinating because the neon signs look like something out of the sixties or seventies, so I added a slight sepia tint to the photo.  I also liked that I captured someone else photographing the same view.

As I responded to one comment in the previous post, my current point-and-shoot camera, a Panasonic Lumix LX3, has a lot of manual controls.  I should experiment with it a bit and see what sort of extended exposures I can take.  Maybe moving to digital hasn’t cost me the opportunity to explore my artistic side.


Fire and Light Part 1

In high school I started learning about photography, buying a Minolta 35mm SLR camera and learning the techniques of exposure, composition, focus, etc. from a few friends who were very skilled.  In those days, of course, there was the expense of buying film and paying for developing and it wasn’t unusual for a roll to produce only one or two interesting images.

One of my interests was extended exposures: leaving the shutter open for a longer than normal length of time in order to capture multiple layers of light or a sense of motion.  This is a tricky technique because more often than not the pictures don’t turn out very well.  Additionally, a tripod is a must because taking these pictures by hand will result in too much blurring. 

As I was pouring through the scanned images from those years, I thought I would share a few with you. 


This shot was taken from the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Taking an extended exposure (manually locking the shutter in the open position so the frame of film was exposed for probably 20 seconds or so), I rotated the head of the tripod to produce this streaked effect.  Basically, I took the photo of the bridge, unmoving, for about 15 seconds and then slow rotated the tripod to the left for another 3-4 seconds to create the streaks.


A few steps away from where I took the bridge picture is a set of old concrete bunkers, part of the extensive fortifications that lined the Marin Headlands.  Working with my partner in crime, Denise, we did a series of these extended exposures, some lasting a few minutes, that featured multiple exposures of us in different positions in the frame.  This took some planning and the roll was filled with failures.

The technique involved having the model stand or sit in one location and then the photographer would fire a hand-held flash at them to get the exposure.  Then we would move to another location and repeat.  We also set a small, controlled fire inside one of the buildings, putting a strip of rubber cement on a piece of foil and then lighting it.  While the flame looks large in the picture, that is only because of the cumulative effect of the extended exposure.  In reality, it was a very small flame.


This photo features me and didn’t make use of the fire.  We did another series at the Rodin Sculpture Garden in Stanford, setting a little rubber cement fire in front of the “Gates of Hell” sculpture to create an interesting effect or flames and shadows.  Unfortunately, campus security arrived before we could get a decent exposure.


This photo was the interesting result from an evening shoot taken at the beach.  Denise brought a trumpet with her, something I don’t think she could play but it made for an interesting prop.  We took this photo nearly an hour after sunset and to our eyes the sky was fully dark.  But over the course of an exposure that lasted about two minutes, the faint light in the west built up, adding this dusk effect.  To get the lines, I used a flashlight to trace Denise as she posed with the trumpet.  The brighter spots are when the light was pointed directly at the camera and thus created a stronger exposure.


This final shot was made the same year, using my high school friend Allen as a model.  It was taken in a parking lot of the Anaheim Marriott Hotel and it was only a few seconds long, since there was a fair amount of ambient light.  He was holding a book of matches that he had ignited.  I liked the shadow that it produced and there was something Buddha-like in the pose and then the opening in the wall behind him was an interesting contrast.

Lest you worry about all of the use of fire, rest assured I wasn’t a pyromaniac.  Everything was done with a great deal of thought to safety.  Fire was just an interesting medium because with an extended exposure, it provides very dramatic light for the picture.

I’ll share some more tomorrow.


New Notes and Photos

One of the wonderful things about this little community on Xanga is how it connects you to creative and interesting people both inside and outside the community.

Evan wrote a recent entry in which he linked to photographer Phillip Toledano’s online slideshow titled Days with My Father.  Following his mother’s death, Toledano cared for his father, who had no short-term memory.  The three years they spent together are beautifully captured through his photos and words.

Phillip Toledano Day With My Father.jpg

When you click on the link, it will take a few moments for all the thumbnails to load.  Click on the upper left thumbnail to begin and then navigate through the slideshow by clicking at the bottom of each page when you are ready to advance.  The navigation took me a few moments to figure out but it is worth it.

Locus Ambrosia.jpg Another Xangan, Jason, is part of the Vancouver BC-based band Locus.  They just released their first album, Ambrosia. 

Described as “dream pop” their music is a combination of electronic, ambient and industrial rock.  Listen to their beautiful songs for free on MySpace.  You can download the album from iTunes by searching for “Locus Ambrosia”.

Add to this the many talented poets on Xanga and we have a very creative tribe here.

Phrae’s Photos

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I lent my camera to young Phrae, the rambunctous niece of Brent’s maid, while we were there for a photo shoot on Sunday.  Her nearly 1 gigabyte worth of photos produced on some interesting results.  Click on a photo to see a larger version.

P1110003 P1100998 P1110016 P1110339
P1110023 P1110013 P1110036 P1110047
P1110051 P1110087 P1110083 P1110052
P1110092 P1110118 P1110126 P1110106
P1110161 P1110209 P1110202 P1110234
P1110239 P1110258 P1110243 P1110269
P1110302 P1110282 P1110327 P1110272

After she finally tired of photo shooting (more accurately, after her aunt insisted that she give the camera back to me), she decided that it was almost as much fun to play model as to take pictures:


Cute, huh?

Photo Exhibit for His Majesty the King

At the Paragon shopping mall there is a photo exhibit on display, the results of a nationwide contest.  The contest was held on the occasion of His Majesty the King’s 80th birthday last year and the photos were judged on different themes.  There was a category of pictures specifically honoring the Thai’s devotion to their king.  Another category was of general “life in Thailand”.  Another was for nature photos.

The lighting wasn’t great, so I was limited as to which pictures I could capture with my camera.  Here are a selection of the more interesting shots.   The first two and the final one were noted finalists in the contest.


This first one is particularly interesting.  Titled The Father’s Son, it was selected as an example of how people take His Majesty’s “Sufficiency Economy” theory very literally – to the extent of squeezing out the final drop of toothpaste from a tube.  This picture appealed to me because that’s exactly what my father taught me when I was a child, to the extent of cutting the tube open to get every last bit out.  How’s that for fiscally prudent Midwestern values?


This second photo shows a gaggle of preschool / kindergarten aged children wildly waving the Thai national flag and the yellow flag of King Rama IX.




Above, a special celebration around Songkhran (the Thai new year) at the largest Buddhist complex in Thailand, located on the outskirts of Khrungthep (Bangkok).


Above, a monk collecting alms from a soldier not long after the coup in September 2006.


The lighting was poor, so I didn’t capture this one very well, but the actual picture is very sharp.  It is taken at the installation of a new Buddha statue at a temple, where community members and workers have a “laying on” of hands during a blessing.  Interesting angle.