I’d been in Thailand since 1999 other than for a 3 year stretch back in the states, when I returned to the states in May of 2011.  13 months later I returned to Thailand with a full schedule of workshops and a major wedding.

 

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Fuji x100  F5.6  1/80th  ISO 200

 

Originally I’d planned on two weeks of work and two weeks to myself to do what I love best, travel around Thailand in my own vehicle and visit places previously unknown.  Loading up my truck with camera gear and heading out of Bangkok for a 1-3 week adventure was always the highlight of my time in Thailand.

Within days of putting the word out that I’d be back for a month for workshops I had most every day scheduled.  This was both surprising and humbling.  To those of you I worked with, thank you.  Nothing makes me happier than teaching workshops or being tasked with difficult photographic assignments.

A good friend secured a nice two bedroom apartment near Victory Monument for baht 15,000 for the month, and a farang/Thai owned rental agency gave me a great deal on a month’s rental for a nearly new Mitsubishi Extended Cab Pickup which took both NGA and Petrol.  From the moment I stepped off the plane I had a place to stay and transportation, both nicer than your typical hotel and rental car.  I couldn’t have been more pleased.

 

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Fuji x100 F2.8  1/30th  ISPO 3200

 

I’d like to discuss some of my workshop clients without sacrificing their privacy so I’ll refer to them by a single letter I’m sure they’ll recognize.

One of my first clients was R.  He had the newest Canon gear and wanted to concentrate on the basics which we learned at Safari World and people who we photographed on the Chulalongkorn campus.  A very interesting man with a goodly amount of talent . We had a great time and worked well into the 8-9pm time frame.

 

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Fuji x100  F5.6  1/90th  ISO 200

 

Another regular client P is one of my favorites.  It seems like the majority of my clients since the world’s economies have taken a beating are Australian and I can tell you that after so much exposure to these sensible and fun loving people I’ve added Australia to my list of possible retirement countries.  P and I did some low light work on Soi Nana and Stick made himself available to stop by and offer some personal pointers.  My clients love it when Stick shows up.  They get to meet the legend and they get to learn what style makes Stick’s images so captivating.

 

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Fuji x100  F2.8  1/15th  ISO 3200

The next day R and I were off to Safari World for a basic workshop.  I say “basic” in this case in the strictest sense.  R purchased the Fuji F30 point and shoot over five years ago based on my review and he’s been using it since.  I wasn’t surprised, by now I have heard from or met over 250+ individuals who purchased that camera based on my review and they all loved it.  5-6 years later R is ready to upgrade his camera to a newer model and I had the chance to introduce him to a DSLR and my Fuji x100 which he was quite taken with.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  @F8  1/80th  200mm  ISO 100

 

A days break and I was meeting with J.  J has been a regular contributor to the site and has also made the investment in the newest Canon gear . We’d been chatting via email and it was great to finally meet him in person.   J and I have much in common from my previous career and it was a great experience.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 16-35mm F2.8  @F8  1/250th  22mm  ISO 100

 

Another  fun day was taking my wedding client by the Canon Service Center to get his cameras serviced.  We learned Canon had relocated and I’ll post that information in my next column complete with a map.  It was fun catching up with R.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS  @F4  1/2000th  200mm  ISO 100

 

R had arranged for his wedding party to take one of my group workshops in Ayutthaya.  I met them there and got to meet many of his wedding guests and answer questions they might have had concerning photographing older ruins as they were heading to Angkor Vat after the wedding.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/80th  15mm  ISO 100

 

Heading down to Hua Hin we stayed at the fabulous Centara Grand where I immediately met with the wedding coordinator and started learning the grounds, different locations, and time tables for events.  It didn’t take long to see this would be a major undertaking and I found myself being very happy I brought along so much lighting gear.  On our way into town that day the skies opened up and it rained so hard the streets of Hua Hin were waist deep.  Our car barely made it into the parking area sputtering and wheezing and it took two days to dry out.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 USM  @F8  1/60th  45mm  ISO 100

 

The next few days we spent shooting the wedding, all the guests, and of course the bride and groom.  This was a grand no-expense spared wedding of the highest quality.  The groom and best man rode in on the back of an elephant and as much was done outdoors as possible.  Beautiful gardens, a very attractive couple, and this photographer could not ask for better material to work with.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 USM  @F4  1/60th  24mm  ISO 400

 

I’ve said before, several times, a Thai wedding is one of the most difficult photographic challenges I’ve ever faced and this was no exception.  You’ll find most Thai photographers don’t photograph a wedding in real time.  They’ll do the studio portraits weeks or months in advance and leave the rest to the videographer.  The reason for this is because Thai wedding encompass from sunup to sundown and require a large amount of lenses and lighting equipment to cover from pitch darkness to the brightest noon sun to the hard light of a setting sun where you’ll soon be back in the darkness.  Balancing the light during these different times takes an immense amount of skill, planning, and equipment.  Not to mention a Thai wedding is physically challenging and much of the planning involves reducing physical activity during the hottest hours, plenty of regular rest breaks, and constant hydration for both you and your assistant, though in this case it was my assistant taking care of me.  She’s a gem.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8 USM  @F5.6  1/160th  30mm  ISO 200

 

Considering our garden portrait session was rained out by monsoon class rains the next day, and we were stuck using a less than attractive conference room I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  Along with my assistant we captured many images and I was able to present my client with a set of images 4-5x that of a regular wedding.  Post processing took a lot of time though, probably in the neighborhood of 150+ hours because with all the light variations there was a lot of balancing to do.

The middle of July found me back in Bangkok with a fellow squid S.  He also had the newest equipment and we spent two days together.  The first day was more productive as we went over most of the basics, but the second day was less productive because we decided to do some street shooting at night.  We did, but we ended up doing very little with a lot of driving through the payday Friday traffic (the heaviest Bangkok has) and a few breaks later to quench our thirst and reduce the stress of traffic we ended up doing more talking than shooting.  Sometimes that happens.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS  @F11  1/200th   200mm   ISO 100

 

Another client I wanted to mention was a young Thai lady who also had the latest equipment.  She needed the basics and we started with them, but I quickly found she required a different technique to learn.  She had a great eye and was a lot of fun.  Her husband went along for fun and what an interesting character he was!

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/200th  24mm  ISO 100

 

My last workshop in Thailand was scheduled once again with P and I’d set up a shoot at a traditional Thai house with a very pretty model where we were going to photograph several of his Harley Davidson motorcycles.  We were both pumped for this shoot and I had the lights all packed and ready to go when I heard from P who had some bad street food and had to cancel.  We’ll do it next time.

I’m sorry if I didn’t mention your workshop but for the sake of readability I didn’t want to mention all of them.  Mostly I wanted to give the reader a brief look at what Bangkok Images did because we’ll be back next January to do it all over again!  Several have already booked dates.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 16-35mm F2.8 USM  @F8  1/160th  35mm  ISO 100

 

I’ll say this though, after taking three days to fly from Chicago to Los Angeles where I spent a day, then on to Bangkok, jumping in with both feet, working all month, a repeat three days back, a few more days to adjust to the jet lag and time differences, and I was beat.  Beat right into the ground.  Both physical and mentally.  I still haven’t done half the needed post processing!

On a personal note the highlight of my visit was meeting up with Stick (several times) and other good friends.  It felt like I never left.  And it re-enforced what I already knew about the value of friends I made while in Thailand.  I know many are wary of the quality of farangs in the Kingdom and no one knows that better than myself, but there are some really good people too and it was great to sit down to a meal and catch up an entire year in no time at all.  On a sad note I was really looking forward to meeting up with a friend, his wife, and his two young children..  and now it was my turn to eat some bad street food.  This was on my last few nights there and I wasn’t able to reschedule.  I’ll make it up this January.

 

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Canon 5d Mark II, 16-35mm F2.8L USM  @11  1/80th  26mm  ISO 100

 

Was it worth it?  Heck yeah!  Nothing is more satisfying than teaching workshops or using my skills to pull off a complicated shoot except maybe catching up with good friends.  I’ll be back this January.