Feature Photograph

Rice Field in Chiang Rai

This week's feature photograph was taken about 20 kilometers south of Chiang Rai.  My assistant and I had been holed up all night in an inexpensive hotel waiting out a severe thunder and rain storm.  We  got back on the road heading north on Highway One towards Chiang Rai and the rain was still coming down.  The scenery even from the highway in this area is spectacular.  Kilometer after kilometer of lush green rice paddies, mountains, trees, and canals overflowing from the rains.  The problem as you’ll find every where, is that the power and telephone wires follow the highways.  I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve wanted to stop and take a picture of a grand sunset or some other wonderful scene, only to notice heavy and ugly power lines in the frame.  In some areas you can walk 20-30 meters past the lines and take the picture.  In other areas you’d have to swim through ditches, wade though cow stuff, climb fences, or navigate some other obstruction.

When I saw this scene I wanted it no matter how much effort it took.  I found a small side dirt path and aimed the vehicle up the path toward a clearing right before the rice paddy.  Did I tell you it had been raining all day and all night?  I felt the tires sink in the deep mud as I pushed the lever into the 4x4 position and heard the hubs lock in.  I kept it moving until thankfully some tall grass which has been beat down by the force of the rain was laying flat exactly where I needed to stop.  I stopped on top of the grass and my assistant looked at me and said “are we in trouble?”  I lied.  “Nah, that’s why we have four wheel drive, lets take the picture!”  She didn’t look convinced as her new white tennis shoes slipped deeper into the mud so I took her picture to reassure her.

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I set up the Canon 1dsMarkII on a Gitzo tripod and mounted a Sigma 12-24 wide angle zoom.  Set at 15mm which on a full frame DSLR is quite wide I was able to capture the entire scene.  By the time I had everything set up I was excited to see a patch of blue sky appear through the clouds in the foreground and as I sat there admiring the view another patch of clouds behind me opened up and let the sun shine in over my shoulder providing the most wonderful directional light,.  It was like I was given control of the weather and sun to create the most perfectly lit scene possible.  I took the pictures, stowed the gear back in the car, and still feigning confidence that we weren’t stuck in the mud climbed in and started off.  Miraculously the car spun on the wet grass 180 degrees on a dime, and them moved forward exactly the way we came in.  My assistant remarked “They sure teach you to drive well in America.”  Indeed…