Ever thought about documenting your neighborhood? It is considered part of
progress as old buildings are knocked down to make way for another
expressway, even though some may not agree. However, no matter which way
your opinion slants, you do not have to wear a colored T-shirt, and the
subject ‘progress’ makes for a great photo project.
The great thing about this project is
that not only does it make you ‘work’ to produce a particular image, but the
final images are eminently marketable. Interested? You could even make
money out of this!
All you have to do with this project is
to show the progress that has occurred in any area - particularly the region
that you live in - For example, Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Pattaya! The concept
is simple - contrast a “now” shot with what was there before. Sounds too
easy? Well, it is not quite that easy! There are a couple of snags.
Probably one of the hardest aspects is
getting the “before” or “then” shots in the first place. This will take
some scrounging around, particularly in this region of the world, where not
much stock was placed upon the particular moment in time. Buddhism tells
you that all of life is change - so why get excited about recording the
However, one of the greatest sources of
the “then” images are postcards - particularly tourist market postcards.
These were generally of reasonable photographic quality and also depicted
the subject from a good angle.
So where are they? This is where you
begin asking all the Thai people you know if they have any old photographs
or postcards. After that, look in second hand shops, the dusty back corners
of old Chinese chemist shops, funny old stores in Naklua - anywhere. But
you do have to get these images first. Remember that you can always have
photographs copied these days and you do not need the negatives. So all you
have to do is borrow, if you cannot beg or steal! Do not worry about image
quality, by the way, because no one expects old photographs to be pristine,
in fact a little bit of fading and staining looks good in the final result,
particularly the sepia tints.
Next part of the project is to find the
original area that was photographed and work out from where the shot was
taken. The concept is to get as close as possible to the original, so that
the difference between the “then” and “now” is just the progress. This does
mean looking critically at the original and working out if it was taken by a
wide angle lens or whatever. If the shot is more than 50 years old, it was
probably taken with a “normal” 50 mm lens, so try that first and look
critically through your own viewfinder, while looking at the original as the
Of course, some will be easy, like
Pattaya Bay taken from the Naval Lookout at the top of Pratamnak Hill.
Others, like the Nipa Lodge will be harder - just what angle did they take
it from? It is also good to try and duplicate the time of day. Late
afternoon or morning? Look at the shadows and you can work it out!
Now having done all your homework, go
out and re-take all those shots from yesteryear. Again, be very critical
with yourself. You do want to be able to see that this is a re-take of the
original. Near enough is not good enough. Some pictures may be too
confusing if there are no landmarks and you will have to reject some of
them, unfortunately, but you will score some gold!
These new ones are worth having printed
as at least 10”x8” and mounted side by side with the faded originals. This
is what makes them so interesting (and so saleable)! You also have the
choice of leaving the originals as small prints beside the new enlargement,
or blowing the old ones up to 10”x8” as well, which is what I recommend.
Believe me, these will sell! Everyone wants to show “life as it was” - it’s
up to you to do it first!
Find a place to shoot - try to avoid overhead
wires and the roofs of houses.
I was reminded of the tricks in shooting fireworks when we had the fireworks
extravaganza a couple of weekends ago. I should have written this then, but
never late than never, we (that’s you) will have plenty of opportunities
over New Year (be that the Western New Year, Chinese New Year, Thai New Year
or the Patagonian Petunia Festival. At all of these events the culmination
is the letting off of fireworks.
Many photographers attempt to record
these colorful displays and most come back with disappointing results. Here
is how to do it properly, but even then you do need a little luck!
The first item is to select where you
are going to shoot the fireworks. Try to avoid overhead wires and the roofs
of houses. The secret is an uninterrupted view, without people walking in
front of you.
The next item to attend to is the flash
incorporated in your camera. You have to turn it off! Most automatic
cameras these days pop their little flash heads up as soon as it gets dark,
and flash settings are exactly what you do not want in recording firework
flashes. You may have to resort to your instruction booklet to do this. It
is amazing just how many camera owners do not know how to turn on and off
the various functions.
The next item of equipment you need is
a tripod. I have written about these many times, but a good sturdy tripod
is best. The light aluminium jobs are easy to carry but don’t keep the
camera rock solid. You need a good heavy one and even hang the camera bag
from the central pole, just to stabilize the whole shooting match even
further. My own Manfrotto is around 25 years old and has never given any
trouble. It is worth the extra expense to get a good one and it will be
with you forever.
Another piece of equipment is a cable
release, and even though not 100 percent needed, makes life much easier in
this firework situation.
The final piece in the equipment list
is a piece of flat black cardboard around 10 centimeters square. Matt black
is best as it does not reflect light (this is why most photographic
equipment is matt black too). Get a matt black spray can at the hardware
shop and make your own card. Your usual 100 ASA or whatever will be fine,
this exercise does not need super-slow or super-fast ASA (ISO) ratings. Use
a wide angle or even standard lens and point the camera at the sky where the
firework star-bursts explode in the sky. Even wait for the first star-burst
and lock the tripod with the camera then in the correct position.
The way we are going to get the top
shots is to record more than one firework star-burst on one piece of film.
This is how the pros get all those magnificent fireworks photographs. The
trick is how!
Here comes the action. You are going
to need something like 30 second exposures to get several star-bursts.
Select “B” as the shutter speed - popping the shutter button in this mode
opens the shutter and keeps it open until the button is released. Now you
can see why the cable release is a good idea, particularly ones that you can
lock in the depressed position.
With the cable release in your left
hand and the matt black card in your right, you are ready. When the rocket
goes up, open the shutter. As the star-burst wanes, cover the lens with
your black card, but keep the shutter open. As the next star-burst happens,
uncover the lens, covering it again as the star-burst wanes. Now you have
two sets of fireworks on one picture. Get another and then close the
shutter, which means that the camera advances to a fresh area in the memory
card. Now you can repeat the exercise as many times as you like. Get up to
four star-bursts on one photo - any more than four and it gets too crowded
in the final print.
So there you have it. Shoot like the
pros and get professional results you will be proud of. Happy New Year.