Monday, October 30, 2006

from blogger to flickr to the top of the world

Blogger Beta has done nothing to improve on posting pictures. It's made it worse actually.

On the other hand, flickr is so easy to use and works every time. So I think I'm going to switch from being a blogger to being a flickr. Writing posts takes way too long anyway.

Visit my flickr account and see some of what I shot last week for steel giant Arcelor-Mittal. The pictures were taken at the top of what will be, upon completion, the tallest tower in the world--the World Finance Center in Shanghai, China. Currently, work is "only" at the 50th floor but pretty impressive already.

Try this direct link to my pictures on flickr.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Action Sample 3.0 and Horizon S3 Pro

When BK Magazine added two parks to my story on Bangkok's parks shot with alternative analog cameras, I had to dig up two such cameras. Luckily, Fotoguffy (, 0816477371), a shop on Soi Chula 50, in Bangkok, opened at that very moment and I met the owner to ask if he could lend me two "toy cameras". In case you missed out, I'd already tested a Fuji Instax 200, a Polaroid 600 SE, a Lomo Compact Automat, a Lomo Fisheye, and a Holga 120GN. The Polaroid is mine, the Fuji was lent by Fuji, the Fisheye belonged to BK Magazine's before last photo intern (to meet next week's new intern-I'm done at BK-visit Daniel Cuthbert's quality website), and the LCA and Holga belonged to Analog memory.

K. Soruch, owner of Fotoguffy, is the chief architect for the Bangkok Bank website. He is trained as an architect, a real one, which might explain his passion for devices engineered to be creative and for good looking spaces like the one of his shop. He began with the LCA but quickly developed a passion for all things photographic and analog, in particular Polaroids. His shop is packed with gems, like the Polaroid Creative Kit (to make Polaroid film transfers) and the Polaroid pinhole camera. He lent me a Horizon S3 Pro and an Action Sampler 3.0.

The Horizon is a great camera. You can see the spirit level/bubble thing that sits on its top through the viewfinder, allowing perfectly flat horizons without a tripod. The lens rotate thanks to some kind of mechanism and covers an impressively wide angle. These pictures are Kodak E100 processed normally. Ironically, the cross-processed crew hanging out at Fotoguffy looked at these pictures in shock, stunned at the gorgeous colors. "Maybe I should stop cross-processing all the time," admitted K. Soruch. These were shot at Suan Luang Rama IX park where you can see a showcase with a mannequin of HM the King of Thailand carrying his trademark radio and camera--a panoramic camera like this one (but much older)!

The Action Sampler is a bit too much of a toy for me. This was shot with 100 ISO negative pushed to 200 ISO. Obviously, it needed another stop or two. Its four lenses shoot one after the other within 0.2 seconds or 2 seconds (two settings) and if you swing the camera while they fire, you can produce a kind of chopped up panoramic. Another thing to do with these is to shoot action but there wasn't much of that at Santi Chai Park on Phra Athit Road on that day.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Next Stop: Shanghai

I might not have bought a new super duper digital camera but I still needed one for my upcoming job in Shanghai. I went to Pro Center, and got:

Canon 5D + grip
Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L
Canon 580EX flash
10 x 1GB CF cards

From my own gear, I'm taking:
Mamiya 645 Pro TL
Mamiya 80mm f/2.8 (50mm equiv.)
Mamiya 35mm f/3.5 (21mm equiv.)
Canon 350D
Benro carbon tripod
Manfrotto monopod (for that big white lens)
filters (polarizer, gradiated, skylight 1B)
Fuji 160, 400, and 800 negative film
Fuji Velvia 50 and 100 slide film.

and a silver Apple PowerBook G4 (rented from a friend)

Let's hope it all works out now.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Well this is it, after weeks in Japan getting recalibrated, my hope-to-be miracle lens is back. The focus on my Canon 350D / XT is still a disaster but I think now it has to do more with the camera than with the lens because some pictures are now somewhat on the spot. I might go test the lens in a shop with a Canon 30D to be sure. The people here are my colleagues.

UPDATE: I tested the lens in a shop with a 30D and got possibly better results but focus was still off quite often. So I decided to test a Canon 50mm f/1.8 on a Canon 5D and I couldn't get the focus to be dead on the eyes either. Then I tried a 24-70 f/2.8 L and that was spot on. It's f/2.8 not 1.4 or 1.8, but at the long end of the zoom that's still a pretty narrow depth of field. It focussed absolutely flawlessly and at blinding speed.

Unfortunately the results still lacked the gorgeous bokeh of my Mamiya 80mm f/2.8 (50mm equiv.) so I just gave up on getting a new super duper digital camera.

Go Green

When the art director told me I was to illustrate BK's Go Green issue on environment and ways to protect it, I tried something clean and conceptual. That's really my fridge. I had to ADD stuff to it to take this picture as the vacuum packed aluminum was sitting on, not in, the fridge.

Meat-Free Photography: Phuket Vegetarian Fest

Words and pictures by moi. I took these shots a year ago (with a compact Sony DSC-P200), as my stay in Phuket was coming to an end. I think Phuket will always be my Thai hometown. I was real bored when I was there, but now I miss it a lot.

There are apparently a few Magnum Agency photographers who have ditched their SLR's in favor of compact cams, and, I must admit, for editorial work, it's hard to beat in terms of lightness and discretion. Still, a shallower DOF would have been nice on some of these pics, to get rid of cluttered backgrounds; and your compact digicam will never get you that. Then again, you have to try to picture yourself grunting under the weight of your gear, in a packed crowd, under the sticky tropical heat. But if she can do it, so can you, right?

Hats off to this whispy, white, eye-lined figure that managed to conserve a lot of grace despite a string of Hasselblads and Metz strobes around her neck.

And here's my article's text:

Meat-free Mysticism: Exploring the famous fair of flesh
by Grégoire Glachant

Poles strung with firecrackers are being lit up and held over a seemingly endless
procession of people. The sound is so deafening, people put their hands to their
ears. Young men, their bodies covered in camphor oil, deflect the firecrackers
by waving black and yellow flags covered in red Chinese characters. As they scramble
to counter approaching ranks, the object of their attention is suddenly revealed—a
man upholding a dozen three-foot long, one-inch wide saw blades coming out of two
incisions in his cheeks. He is skipping along, sideways, like some kind of animal, and is oblivious to everything: the rain of firecrackers, the dance of his flag-bearers, the massed crowd, the drool and blood oozing out of the yawning wounds in his cheeks and what must be intense pain. He wears the same traditional white pants as everybody else, but also a heavily embroidered apron covered in symbols and characters. He is a mah song, an entranced horse, possessed by an ancient Chinese spirit that confers him a temporary state of near godliness.

Every year, on the ninth month of the lunar calendar, the quiet face of Phuket,
usually marked by carefree tourist smiles, is changed into a mask of entrancement.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival runs this year from October 22-30, and for the
hearty who have never experienced it, especially those with an interest in the occult—it’s a must-see event. This once-a-year celebration highlights the intense spiritual connection of the locals (as well as the many who migrate just for the festival) to the ancient gods from China—the motherland of many of Phuket Town’s original Hokien Chinese settlers. They came in the 1800s to rip tin from the island’s sandy soil and in their wake left some delicious Hokien cuisine, beautiful Sino-Portuguese architecture and quite a few holes in the ground. The Vegetarian Festival originated in 1825 when a visiting opera troop from China fell ill to malaria and followed a strict vegetarian lent to recover, with success.
The nine-day fest follows a precise calendar that you must study carefully to be
at the right place at the right time (available at While
processions usually start at 7am, and converge at Sapan Hin (at the end of Phuket
Road), they originate from a different temple everyday. Get there by 6:30am to see the preparations. Also, don’t miss out on other amazing feats such as walking on red-hot embers (best seen at Sapan Hin), crossing nail-covered bridges and climbing ladders with bladed rungs (we recommend Bang Niao Shrine on Phuket Road). You’re always welcome to join the crowd as long as you follow a few rules, the most important being to dress in white, and stay away from booze and meat (near the processions and temples, that is—it’s life as usual elsewhere).

Those worried about going veggie, fear not, as there are still places that serve the island’s excellent seafood outside of town, closer to the beach-hugging tourist
resorts. But by and large, you’ll be missing out—the selection of vegetarian food
from hawker stalls is huge with something palatable for even the most hardcore carnivores. Scores of them can be found both on Phuket Road and at the northern end
of Yaowarat Road. If you’ve never walked the Sino-Portuguese streets of old Phuket Town, the festival is the perfect occasion to do so. The streets you’re looking for are Dibuk, Thalang and the east end of Krabi Road. Though pessimists may say that the beaches of the “Pearl of the Andaman” are already on a fast track to Pattaya-likeness, the town is finally making efforts to conserve its precious heritage—of which the Vegetarian Festival is definitely the most striking feature.
Though the food and architecture are great, the stars of the show are definitely
the mah song. The vegetarian festival is such an intense mystic experience that even
the most hard-boiled pragmatists are bound to feel moved by the spiritual fervor it
exhibits. It’s as if you are caught up in some intersection where reality and the spiritual world meet—an experience few quickly forget. ■

If you’re strictly going for the festival, it’s probably best to stay in Phuket Town rather than at a resort, as you will need to get up early and will be able to walk to the events. Here are a couple suggestions:

Royal City Inn
154 Phang-Nga Rd., Muang, 076-233-333, Rates: B3,500-10,000/night.
No particular charm, but this is a comfortable, high-standard address popular with businessmen.

The Taste
16-18 Rassada Rd, Muang, 02-712-8858, Rates: B2,500-4,000/night.
Part of the Sri Group, this very elegant boutique hotel has only 12 rooms. Definitely the hippest address in town.

Sino House
1 Montree Rd., Muang, 076-232-494, Rates: B1,600 (standard) to B2,000
(Sino-suite). Pseudo-modern Sino-style rooms for Chinese flavor without the ghosts.