Weekly Local Biography

  Steve Kramer

By: Elle Faraday

‘A picture says a thousand words’. No one would agree with this famous quote more than Steve Kramer, professional photographer and retired university lecturer.
Steve is originally from the United States, but has been living in Asia for 17 years. He is currently into his sixth year of living in Chiang Mai, but had previously spent 12 years in Japan as a university teacher. While he was there he taught English literature, English conversation and Cross-cultural anthropology and it was during this time that he met his wife Nobuko. ‘Both myself and Nobuko are great travellers. We love to see the world and teaching allowed us to do this.’ They would get several months off every year and would use this time to travel around the world. They went skiing in the Alps, diving at some of the best reefs in the world and of course visited Thailand.
When the time came for them both to retire they had to make a decision about where they wanted to live. ‘We both felt it was time that we left Japan, we did not want to retire there, but the question was, where do we go?’ Finally the decision was made to move to Chiang Mai. ‘It was a choice between Indonesia, the Alps or Thailand. We chose Chiang Mai and haven’t looked back since.’
Steve’s interest in photography began as a young child but it was not until he left the States that he was finally able to develop this interest. During his travels, he kept a diary on the internet that his friends and family could read. ‘I would take photos and put them on my website. This was the first time friends and family really had the chance to see my photography. They really liked it’ He was learning new skills every day, but wanted to completely understand the art of photography. When he returned to the America he enrolled on a number of photography courses and was finally experienced enough to call himself a professional photographer.
Despite being in retirement, Steve has been kept very busy. He runs photographic workshops and safaris. Many people think these are photography tours. They are not tours (as he is not a tour guide), but instead are learning in situ. He uses tourist locations for the sake of photography. These workshops have proven to be incredibly popular with both tourists and expats alike. Steve told me ‘nearly everyone owns a camera nowadays, but all they really know how to do is to push the little button on the top to take a photo … I want to teach people the thought process that differentiates a professional photographer from a snapshot shooter.’
I was lucky enough to get let in on a few secrets, but my photography is unfortunately so poor that I think I need a serious helping hand. I might even enrol myself on one of Steve’s courses !
Regardless of how experienced you are behind a lens, Steve will be able to give you guidance. His basic-level course teaches people about the simple rules of photography. ‘I do not stand at the front of the class and give a lecture’; instead, he prefers to meet one-on-one (if you enrol on a course, it will be private tuition). He will usually suggest meeting at Darets Guest House where he will cover all of the relevant topics. He provides worksheets, although as he told me ‘I do not overload anyone with information, I provide just the right amount of handouts’ and he then spends the morning talking about the finer points of photography.
After a spot of lunch, Steve will take you ‘on location’ where you can photograph some wonderful still-life such as flowers and temples. He teaches you to be in control of your camera. He will talk you through the subjects and literally let you snap away. When the ‘shooting’ is over, you are then taught a few basic Photoshop editing techniques, just to brush up any photos you might want to use. This is all done from Steve’s office and afterwards, you will undoubtedly be left with some wonderful photographs as memories of your day.
While we were having lunch, one of Steve’s past ‘pupils’ came over. He told me how impressed he was with the day’s course, so impressed in fact that he immediately signed up for another workshop. One of the most appealing factors about Steve’s photo safari for him was that it was one-to-one training. His final thought for me was ‘So many photographers I have encountered throughout my career have never passed on any information at all. Steve is very free with good, detailed and creative information which has been of great help to so many.’
Throughout the quieter months of the year, Steve works as a freelance photographer, offering his services and skills to national and international companies. He is frequently asked to take publicity shots for hotels and restaurants, as well as providing the pictures for features in expat magazines.
On top of his workshops and freelance work, Steve also writes a column every month for Good Morning Chiang Mai as well as providing many of their photos. He has written articles for many more local magazines and is to feature in next month’s Hash House Harriers, as he is covering the InterHash, an event being held in Chiang Mai later this year. Quite how he manages to fit all of this in along with the writing of a book on photography is a mystery to me.
Steve certainly works incredibly hard – especially for someone whose intention was to come to Chiang Mai to retire ! His photos can be seen all across the city in various publications and his courses are available to everyone. If you’ve been meaning to figure our how to use all those mysterious functions on your camera and to learn to take pictures with a professional eye then consider contacting Steve to enrol in his workshop.
When I asked Steve about future plans, he told me that he wants to ‘keep doing what I’m doing for as long as I can.’ He has no plans to leave Chiang Mai and head back to the States. He has been away for so long and has only visited it four times that he does not regard it as home’ Chiang Mai is where he has settled, this has become home.