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.



Last year I finished a project of having all of my old 35mm negatives scanned, some 200 rolls from high school and university.  From time to time, I have reason to go in and browse the files, sometimes finding things that I think would be interesting to share.  So it was with these two black and white photos of a hand in water.  The photos were shot in 1993 in front of the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. and the hand belongs to my boyfriend at the time, Bruce.


We were in the District of Columbia for the March of Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, a protest rally in April 1993 that saw crowds of several hundred thousand gather on the Mall.  I was in university at the time and traveled there with Bruce, my former professor and faculty advisor, Karen, who was by that time studying her doctorate at Ohio University, and two other people.  We drove from Athens, Ohio to DC, spent two nights there, and then drove back.

In those days I was definitely in the fifth stage of the Cass identity model.  Everything was gay this and gay that and I was in a place where I needed to be loud and proud, to the exclusion of most everything else that made up my larger identity.  That’s okay, that’s part of the process of coming to terms with one’s identity as a GLBT individual.  And I’ve been safely in the sixth stage – Synthesis – for a dozen or more years now.


While we were in DC for this march, I had the opportunity to shoot a lot of black and white, a format that DC seems well suited for, what with its monuments and stark, governmental buildings.  The lack of color makes it easier to focus on the textures.  That is perhaps the perfect metaphor for this political city, where everything really is a shade of grey!

These two pictures have long been favorites of mine.  I had them framed a few years later, despite going through a bad breakup with Bruce, and they’ve been on my walls almost continuously ever since.  In fact, Tawn likes them so much (despite to whom the hand belongs!) that they are propped up on either side of our TV in the Annex.


Random Photos Around Krungthep


Welding of a column at the Terminal 21 construction project, Sukhumvit and Asoke roads.


Abandoned structure on an overgrown property, Soi Phrom Phong near Khlong Saen Saeb.


Passenger riding in the back of a delivery truck, Rama IX Expressway near Ekkamai Road.


Monk collecting alms and giving blessings in the morning at the corner of Sukhumvit and Thong Lor roads.


Crowded street near the Flower Market on Rattanakosin Island in the old section of the city.  The yellow flags are the flags of King Rama IX.


Abandoned cars at a junk yard on the frontage road running along the eastbound train tracks, parallel to Phetchaburi Road.


Sunset over Asoke Skytrain Station.


The Elle Ultimatum

P1050215 Following up on the Elle Decoration (which Vic, being a gay man of few stereotypically gay characteristics, misunderstood as a Spanish language publication called El Decoration) photo shoot Friday, first let me thank all of you for your comments and feedback.  The “banishment” to the balcony – as I humorously referred to is – worked out okay as it ultimately allowed both Tawn and I to both maintain our respective values and priorities.  There was also an opportunity the following morning for a good follow-up conversation and, as these types of situations provide, we were able to better understand each other afterwards, right.

Still, I’m thankful that I was out and about instead of at home for the photo shoot, as it was every bit as much of a stressful mess as I had imagined.  I’ve never done photo shoots but I have experience with film and video shoots, and I know that especially for interior shots there is one area of perfection surrounded by a whirlwind of chaos just outside the camera’s field of view.

So it was with our condo.  Tawn had spent the better part of Thursday arranging the entire place so that it was neat, tidy, and decorated to the nines.

First though, doing another flashback, on Wednesday our contractor delivered the replacement bookshelves.  You may recall that in December I wrote about the china cabinets that arrived according to a design change that I had unwittingly agreed to.  Upon their arrival, we discovered that these cabinets were not only not the design that I wanted – my mistake because I had agreed to their change – but they were also not built to the dimensions that Tawn and the designer, Ble, had agreed to.  Each dimension – height, width, and depth – was incorrect.  I had a vision in my mind of a cross eyed carpenter with coke bottle bottom glasses trying to read the tape measure as he reinterpreted the designer’s dimensions.

Ble was not happy and the contractor, with whom he works on most his projects, had to rebuild the cabinets for us at his own cost.

The new cabinets arrived this Wednesday.  This time the cabinets were of the correct dimension and, as you’ll see from the picture below they seem to fit the space much more nicely.  The new one is on the right.


The new cabinets also contain an interior light, which was part of the design but had been omitted in the original shelves.  These still aren’t bookshelves, although we’ve agreed to mostly place books in them, but they look a lot nicer than the previous ones.


Thus ready for the photo shoot, Tawn had prepared everything with the expectation that the designer would arrive with a few additional props, maybe move a few things around, and then the photographer would take the pictures and go.

Ah, but nothing is that easy.  For starters, Ble arrived with his assistant Eddy, and several large pieces of furniture including two porcelain Chinese stools, a large steamer trunk, and two large bedside lamps.

Below right, Ble looks on as Eddy and another assistant move pieces around according to his direction.

Tawn’s tidy setting was quickly untidied and descended into chaos as pieces were arranged.  Our bedside lamps, out.  New bedside lamps, in, below left.

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The photographer was tasked by the editor with shooting twelve different scenes.  In a small place like ours – only 68 square meters – that’s quite a challenge.  Instead of shooting whole rooms, many of these shots were tightly composed – of a bedside table with decorations, for example.

Ble was a perfectionist for details, below.  The bed was not made neatly enough and the original tea arrangement Tawn set out was not what he had in mind so he switched the tray.

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Tawn had asked his mother to come over (she has never seen the place before) and to bring two of his dogs, in case the photographer wanted some dogs to dress a scene.  Which is kind of funny, considering that his dogs are so skittish that they would come out blurred in an exposure at even the fasted shutter speed.

Left, Khun Nui surveys the scene as shots are taken in the bedroom.  Right, now that Khun Chris has left the balcony, the dogs are banished there instead.

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Above: Ble takes a break as Eddy makes calls.  The photographer’s case is on the kitchen floor and a section of the counter that won’t be in any pictures is packed with things.

Below left: The photographer’s assistant takes a meter reading for the bathroom shot.  Right: What the photographer sees, a mirror image of the shot.

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After several hours of shooting, seven shots were complete with five to go.  Eventually, the team moved to the living room where the table had been set for a tea party.  The theme of the April issue will be “throwing a party” and my understanding is that each house that is being shot is decorated with a party theme.  The picture below gives you an idea of how chaotic things are just for one perfect picture.


The final shots were taken in the kitchen area.  Tawn had pitched the story of this house as “A Baker’s House… Inspired by San Francisco” or something to that affect.  I had baked a double batch of cookie dough, rolled it into logs and stored them in the refrigerator as Tawn could actually bake cookies for the shoot.  The final shot below is of one showing him in his apron – ever the baker – pulling some cookies out of the oven for his guests.