Friday, March 30, 2012

Sound of Silence

Racetrack Playa at night

A few years ago I drove to Death Valley over the Fourth of July weekend.  I wanted to feel the heat and take a few night photos. I got there in the evening an hour or two before the sunset.  I walked out on the sand dunes a little ways where the temperature was 122 degrees in the shade (yes, I had a thermometer with me).  I had plenty of water but after about 30 minutes I was getting worried about the possibility of heat stroke.  I was alone and there were not many people in the park so I cooled down the best I could on the shady side of a dune.  Then walked back to my car as soon as I could.  Not even stopping to take any pictures.  Then I drove to the Racetrack Playa.  I got there well after dark and I was the only person there.  I set up my camera and began taking photos leaving the shutter open 15 to 30 minutes at a time. While I was waiting for the long exposures I laid down on the playa and watched the nigh sky through binoculars.  I noticed a faint sound that I didn't recognize.  It was a soft intermittent sound.  I thought it sounded kind of like two small blocks of wood bumping together way off in the distance.  I sat up so I could hear the sound better but it stopped.  I laid back down with my binoculars and the sound soon returned.  I thought it might be an insect or a small animal but I had never heard anything quite like it.  I sat up but the sound stopped again.  I would set up my camera for a shot without noticing the sound but after I opened the shutter and went back to star gazing the noise returned.  It was driving me nuts because I couldn't figure out what the strange sound was and every time I tried to listen carefully for it, it would stop.  This went on for about two hours.  Eventually I sat up and looked at the mountains in the distance through my binoculars.  There was a little moon light but I could see nothing but the outline of the horizon.  However, this time the sound didn't stop.  It continued.  I listened very carefully trying to pinpoint where the sound was coming from.  It was about this time I realized the sound was my eyelashes brushing the lenses of the binoculars when I blinked.  I put the binoculars away, gazed up at the sky and listened to the sound of silence.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Longshan Temple

This is my entry for the Photo Roulette Round 39 with the theme of Local Character.  This round is being hosted by Travel with Kat. It was taken at the Longshan Temple in Taipei.  I still hear the chants that were being played at the temple that day every time I see this photo.  I was waiting to get a photo or two with no one in the background when this girl and her mother placed incense in the urn.  The girl lingered a while to watch the incense burn.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Introvert in Chesler Park

It is great that I live where I can wake up early and drive to a place like Canyonlands  National Park, hike for 8 1/2 hours and then drive home and sleep in my own bed.  Yes, it was a long day but I needed to get out and enjoy the nice weather.  I listened to the audio book "Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" while driving down and back.  I found it interesting but being on the introverted side myself, I instinctively already understood most of the ideas in the book.  I hiked the Chesler Park/Joint Trail loop by myself and saw only about 20 other people on the trail.  Some people seem to think it's strange that I go do things like this alone.  Maybe I'll suggest they read "Quiet."  It's a great way for me to recharge.  I know it's not for everyone but I need the solitude.  
The Chesler Park/Joint trail loop is about 11 miles.  I did a variation of the loop that added about 1.5 miles to it.  I read that there was only about a 500 foot elevation change and expected an easy hike.  It was easy in that there were no difficult or steep sections but it was like climbing up and down stairs or ramps for about 10 miles.  I am feeling a little sore today as well as a little sunburned.  I knew I had a tube of sunscreen in my day pack but I didn't know it was nearly empty.  I didn't have enough to go around.  The weather was perfect, about 80 degrees.  The sun was out early and behind thin clouds in the afternoon.    
Photography was not the purpose of my trip.  I just wanted to get out in the sun and become more familiar with this area.  I did, of course, pack my camera gear with me just in case.  The light was not good most of the time and I didn't take many photos but the area was spectacular.  You can click on the panorama to see it a little larger.  There are not any slot canyons in this area but there are a few narrow cracks in the sandstone that the trail goes through.  
Hope you have some great hiking trails near where you live too.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jianchuan Photoshopped - Part 2

This cobbler practicing his craft on a street corner caught my attention.  I try to be a discreet when photographing people on the street.  If that's even possible.  I take pictures of them, I just don't want to be in their faces.  Don't want them to notice me or change their behavior.  I wish I could be invisible and get any angle and as close as I want but I can't so I do the best I can.  This wasn't the best angle but it was the best I could do without being noticed.  I was lucky to get a shot without other people or cars passing by. 

The original was okay but nothing special.  I found the colors in the background and on post distracting from the man and his equipment.  Cropping and converting it to black and white help that.  Then I created another layer to add the Chinese characters and give it a distressed look.  I like how it looks like an old photo from the 1930's.  I wished I had been more patient and waited for some fashion conscious  young women to walk by wearing stylish new shoes to contrast with this old cobbler and his equipment. That would have been a much more interesting story. 

Most photos I take are more bout documenting a place and time than they are about art.  They help me remember the places I've been and experiences I've had.  I try to make them the best photos I can but they don't mean anything to anyone else. In fact most are never seen by anyone else.  It's fun to take some of these photos and see what I can turn them into with Photoshop.  Sometimes they're worth sharing.   

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jianchuan Photoshopped - Part 1

I took a day trip to Jianchuan from Lijiang last time I was in China.  I had high expectations for photo opportunities after reading about Jianchaun in my Lonely Planet guide.  Maybe I didn't find the right Ming and Qing courtyards, maybe I took the wrong trails, maybe the weather was too gloomy, maybe I'm just not a very good photographer or maybe a combination of all of these things, but I was disappointed and didn't find much to photograph.  Most of my photos were within a block of the bus station and were took as I was waiting for the bus back to Lijiang.  When I reviewed my photos later I found I had a few interesting subjects but the photos were nothing special.  I decided to see if I could make them more interesting.  I certainly did not take these photos with the thought of Photoshopping them up.  But for me, sometimes it a matter of salvaging something interesting in a less than perfect photo.  
I saw this old sewing machine in a house/shop while walking down the street.  
Original photo
There were some people in the house so I waited till I was out of view and quickly took a picture and walked on.  When I saw the photo later I thought this was quite interesting and wished I had taken more time photographing it.  Anyway I tried to make the most of what I had with the help of Photoshop and I like how it turned out.  I have put many different frames on this photo and I am not sure I have found one that really fits it.  Maybe it's best unframed.  I have some friends that don't like all the Photoshop stuff (Purists?) and that's okay with me.  I don't Photoshop every photo and don't want to.  In the end it's a visual art and I try to create something that is visually interesting to look at.  As soon as a photo is composed and a photographer decides what to include and what to exclude the manipulation of reality begins.  So why stop there?  We choose what to have in focus and out of focus and how to set the exposure, what type of lens to use, flash or no flash, etc.  Is that a purist? I don't know.  I wish I were good enough to create perfect pictures straight from my camera all the time but I'm not.  I'm not good enough to create perfect pictures even with the help of Photoshop.  But I hope I can occasionally create something that's interesting to look at.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Death Valley

This is my entry for the Travel Photo Roulette, Round 38 - Sunshine.
Taken just after sunset at the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park.  
Round 38 is being hosted by nomadbiba.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Authentic Thai Food

Many years ago I spent a few weeks in Thailand for work.  One weekend Nitia, an engineer from the company I was working with, took me outside of Bangkok to do some sight seeing with her two daughters.  Our first stop was a school that taught native crafts and was supported by the Queen.  At the school there was a pier that went out over a slow moving river 20 or 30 feet below.  Underneath the pier there were vendors on a few small boats next to a platform selling food.  Nitia pointed out the boats and asked me if I would like to try some of the food they were selling.  She added "It's authentic Thai food." 
I told her "No, I'm not hungry."  
A few minutes later she asked again "They're selling traditional Thai food, don't you want to try it?"  
I assured her that I wasn't hungry but in a few minutes she asked again "Are you sure you don't want something to eat?  It is authentic Thai food."  
It finally hit me.  I'm a stupid guy and I wasn't getting the hint.  She must want to eat some of the food from the boats.  So I said "I am not really hungry now but if you want to go and get something to eat, I'll go with you."  
She looked at me with disgust and said "I'm not eating that food.  They wash the dishes in the river!"  

This photo was not taken in Thailand and really has nothing to do with the story (except that the river was used as an outhouse).
I have a photograph of the boats selling food somewhere but I was too lazy to find it and scan it.  
I'm sure it's not a good an especially good photo anyways.  So I am posting this one instead.