August in Thailand and Cambodia

As you can probably tell, I had a thing for Thailand and Cambodia.

These shots were taken in Koh Tao, Bangkok, Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I was carrying everything I owned in my Jansport Odyssey, a 39-liter King of Backpacks. While other backpacks ripped and fell apart, the Jansport is with me to this day. For the first few months of my travels, it held everything.

This included my:

  • Canon 60D
  • ASUS 14-inch laptop
  • 2-3 changes of clothes
  • My Kodak Zi8
  • An electronic Japanese-English dictionary
  • 2-3 notebooks
  • My travel tripod
  • A poncho & raincover for my backpack
  • And much, much more

It always blew my mind to see people carting around giant body bags and stuffing them into the local tuk tuks.

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Back to Southeast Asia

For certain other reasons, I had decided to remove my current operating system from my laptop and replace it with Ubuntu. This meant transitioning to GIMP and a new work method. There were a few bugs and hassles to overcome: for example, I couldn’t plug my Canon directly into my PC via USB. Ubuntu wouldn’t recognize it, so I had to remove the SD card, put that into my Kodak, then plug that in and manually move the files over.

But, fortunately, Ubuntu’s Shotwell photo manager could read RAW files and I could edit JPG files in GIMP, so that’s how I decided to work for the next however long.

Editing files in GIMP proved to be a good learning experience, since I had to start afresh and teach myself new editing techniques. Using a completely different photo editor with a completely different workflow is a good way to learn new tricks and get yourself out of old habits.

That being said, Shotwell doesn’t have the nearly same functionality as Camera RAW.

In order to pop lights and dark darks, I had to use Shotwell’s built-in slider/histogram, which is similar to the Photoshop levels function. There was a saturation slider and a couple others, but no contrast or any of the other fancy controls that RAW has. Without access to contrast or any of Camera RAW’s fancy features, I ended up sacrificing many lights and darks to achieve some effects.

Inside GIMP it’s possible to access more features, but I didn’t have any experience with it and it took me a while to get the hang of it. While GIMP is an excellent free tool, it’s just not as robust as Photoshop.

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For the Love of Rain Part 4

Sunday I finally got it.

What I wanted was to freeze time as much as possible, by reducing the exposure time as much as possible, so for some of these shots I pushed the ISO all the way up to 6400, which resulted in two shots that have exposure times of 1/8000th of a second, and others that range between that value and 1/4000th of a second. Those are the ones where you can see the drops frozen in mid-splash.

The first two are the ones with the shortest exposure times.

There’s little to no blur from the water’s motion.

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For the Love of Rain Part 3

It rains only a few times a year in Tempe, and this was one of those times. The whole weekend was covered in clouds, and down poured more rain in one morning than I’ve seen in almost a year. It was awesome.

These pictures are from Saturday.

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Halloween has arrived, and so has HDR toning, the most exciting thing to happen to photography since I got my camera.

The first few shots were taken on Halloween, 2012, and the next few were taken during a nightscaping run with a coworker, who told me that you don’t really get a lot of noise until you bump your ISO past 1600.

As usual, I’m using my travel tripod to get some of the night lighting, then HDR toning in Photoshop later on.

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The Dust Storm

I was in my apartment one Sunday afternoon when suddenly the ambient neighborhood noise muted somewhat, except for the crows, which became obnoxious.

When I looked outside, I saw this coming:

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For the Love of Rain Part 2

Mid-July 2012 was my second opportunity to take some really nice rain shots. My technique improved slightly over my first effort, back in Bangkok.

In a few of these shots I was bumping the ISO up to as high as 4000, but mostly I kept it below that. In my subsequent rain shoot, you’ll notice a difference when I increase the ISO to the Canon 60D’s max of 6400.

The shutter speed for most of these shots is 1 / a few hundred, which isn’t super fast. This speed does give a nice sense of motion to the rain splashes.

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Walking Around in Seattle in Vibrams in the Sun

I loved my Vibrams, and I still do, but don’t walk around paved streets in them. They are great for hiking, yoga, and even swimming, but if you walk more than a few miles, you can really hurt your feet. I made the mistake of walking from Queen Anne to the International District one day, and paid for it.

But I did get some good pictures.

110728_0090My working method was based on whatever digital photo book for dummies book I was reading at the time. Essentially it involved lots of experimentation with the aperture value and the shutter speed; I was revolted by the idea of putting my camera on fully automatic. Automatic mode? Like, WTF, seriously?

I had come across a video series that covered using Adobe Bridge’s Camera RAW, and the teacher’s mantra was: “Camera RAW for global adjustments and Photoshop for local adjustments.” Most photos I took in late 2011 were adjusted primarily in Camera RAW, using typical adjustments I tend to favor, such as: high contrast and bumped saturation.

Since I’m not a photographer by profession, and since I have lots of other ways I like to spend my time, I tend to follow this advice. I’m much more competent with Photoshop than your average Joe, but, man, some of those pros can do some really amazing things with that program.


Enter the DSLR

IMG_0058_1 (2)I got my Canon 60D in the middle of July, 2011, just before my trip to Thailand.

I bought my first kit in a camera store in Seattle, though the same package is still available on Amazon for almost the same price.My kit included the body and the 18-200mm lens. The store had a 2-year warranty that covered anything and everything, but fortunately I never had to use it.

A guy I would later meet in Thailand said that he had a similar warranty that he did have to make use of: he had a longer lens and was letting it just hang around his neck by the strap. I’m sure you can guess what happened to the strap and the camera.

Even before meeting that guy I’ve never had the nerve to let a $1100 camera hang by its strap alone. I always loop the strap around my neck and keep it nestled snugly inside my Tamrac bag. I can’t find the exact model I bought on Amazon, but it’s very similar to this one.

In addition to an extra battery, some cleaning supplies, a UV guard, and an extra memory card, I bought a Slik travel tripod, which is I’ve always been very happy with.

Fumbling Around with my New Canon

I was blown away by the camera's ability to shoot in such dim lighting

I was blown away by the camera’s ability to shoot in such dim lighting

When I bought the Canon 60D, I was already the proud owner of a Kodak Zi8 pocket video camera, which is great for shooting video, but crappy for shooting snapshots — it’s not really supposed to shoot photos anyway.

I had begun screwing around with Photoshop, and somehow managed to make some pretty cool effects, but the major problem with trying to Photoshop non-DSLR images is that the files aren’t in RAW format. Usually they are in JPG format, which doesn’t handle new Photoshop effects very well at all.

At the time, I was quite short-sighted, and for the first couple months, I didn’t preserve my RAW files after editing them. This is a big mistake. Don’t delete your RAW files, ever, under any circumstances. Disk space is cheap. If you run out of space, buy a new hard drive.

Fortunately, I didn’t take any masterful shots during my early days of shooting.