Rob is a good friend and a very serious amateur photographer with the resources to travel and Rob vacation in some really exotic places.  He hails from New Zealand and has lived or traveled through much of Asia and wherever his extraordinary IT skills are required.  Nary a day off from work is wasted as Rob and his wife Sao pack up camera equipment and hit the road looking for new and rewarding locations to photograph.  He publishes www.1ds.com where you can always find lots of great photography and interesting blog entries.  If there is a great place to photograph in Thailand you can bet Rob and Sao have already been there and documented it.

 

Plains of Africa

 

BKKSteve:  Ready?

Rob:  Yes

 

BKKSteve:  okay.. formal mode

Rob:  :)

 

BKKSteve:  You're an IT consultant by trade?

Rob:  Yes

 

BKKSteve:  Feel free to elaborate

Rob:  ah

 

BKKSteve:  This is all about you.  Spotlight and all.

 

Lighthouse

 

Rob:  Yes, I am in the IT Industry.  I work as a Project Manager for large corporations with Large Problem projects to deliver.

 

BKKSteve:  So you have a fairly heavy technical background?

Rob:  In the early days of computing yes.  As the technology has gotten more diverse and more intricate, I found that I was being pushed into specialty areas.  With my ability to deliver diverse areas of the IT toolset, I naturally gravitated to Project Management.  I am only marginally technical these days.  I employ specialists for each area. Networks, Software development, infrastructure etc.

 

BKKSteve:  Sorry.. had to jail the parrots

Rob:  :)

 

Australian Parrot

 

BKKSteve:  How long have you been into photography?

Rob:  I have had two photographic periods in my life.  One when I was 15, which lasted about three years into being married and having kids.  Other things took over then.  I got interested in the early digital cameras (which sucked) in the 90's and I waited until a manufacturer developed something good, and something affordable.  This happened in 2000 with the D30 from Canon.  It was my digital epiphany.

 

BKKSteve:  I'm always curious how a person's background influences their photography..  You started out technical.. but are now more conceptual?  Isn't this how photography works?

Rob:  I think there's something in that.  As a technical person, I got caught up in the technical perfection of the image. These days I am looking more than to record an image, I want to tell a story.

 

Australian Landscape

 

BKKSteve:  The D30 was Canon's first CMOS sensor DSLR, a groundbreaker in its own right.  But only 3mp's.  Do feel today's DSLRs with 21mp+ offer that much more of an advantage?

Rob:  MP is one dimension. There's the ISO capability, the AF speed, the advent of video being included and a score of other things. The cameras today are a quantum leap from 2000.  It is slowing down however, as is evidenced by Canon, for example, going for less MP on the Canon G11.  Very interesting move.

 

BKKSteve:  I couldn't agree more.  And I applaud Canon (and some other companies more recently) for recognizing it's more about image quality than megapixels and putting their money where their mouth is with the new G11.  However, which feature of those you listed do you consider the most important?

 

 Ostrich and baby

 

Rob:  ISO performance.  The absolute reality now is that we're expecting more dynamic range for our buck. Look back to the D30, D60, 1D and 1Ds models when the third party market for noise reduction boomed. That's quieter now as the manufacturer fill the void. I see this trend continuing with HDR coming to the fore.

 

BKKSteve:  Increasing ISO range allows us to use many more hours of the day for photography.  We can now shoot in light we never before dreamed of.  Do you find your photography habits/venues have changed to take advantage of this?

Rob:  Yes, certainly. The flash rarely comes out of the bag these days.  For static items a little bit of HDR bracketing works a treat and doesn't look fake.

 

Raptor keeping an eye out

 

BKKSteve:  I personally find that I'm shooting at times of the day I never would before, and as you mention with HDR we can bracket for further advantage.  Times are great.  Can you tell me when you started taking photography seriously, by that I mean putting the time and effort into the hobby as much as you do today?

Rob:  From the minute that I got my hands on the D30, I was hooked.  Digital in itself opens up a plethora of opportunities to experiment with your photography that never existed before (unless you were fiscally endowed).  I then started to hone my craft in ways I thought impossible, as I am not a patient person.  Digital gives me that quick fix and instant response that suits me.

 

Sand Piper

 

BKKSteve:  Instant gratification.  We are indeed a consumer society..  One of the things which impresses me the most about you, or perhaps just plain peaks my curiosity, is that you shoot with your wife.  You guys seem to equally enjoy photography.  Was this more an accident or by design?

Rob:  It was by design. I knew that if I was going to be spending a lot of time shooting stuff, I'd have to include my better half.  I handed her a camera and the rest is history.  I have done a lot of trips where the spouses are handbags (male or female) or not even there.  I think this is sad.  I have even developed styles of photography that suit us as a couple.

 

Sao in the road

 

This is the main reason I sold my medium format gear.  Medium format is solo photography and is no fun for the people hanging around, so we must adapt to the circumstances that we want to exist.  It means we all change in a way that makes for the best relationship, in my mind. Sao also told me that she wasn't going to hold on to reflectors or other gear, so I knew that this wasn't going to work.  Funny thing is, she's now very competent and uses the same gear as I do and produces excellent images in her own right.  Competition is good.

 

BKKSteve:  I've noticed this.  I've been shooting with both of you and I was very impressed not only by her handling of the camera, but because she kept shooting and showing interest long after we'd both lost interest and lapsed into conversation.  Was it hard for her to pick up the necessary technical bits?

 

The camera is the tool, and when it doesn't produce what she wants, she asks advice.  So she knows enough to get her to her next level of competence, if that makes sense.

 

Rob:  I have to smile at this question.  The technical parts are irrelevant to her.  This is why she is so creative.  The camera is the tool, and when it doesn't produce what she wants, she asks advice.  So she knows enough to get her to her next level of competence, if that makes sense.  She's happy, and that's all that matters.

 

She does on occasion ask to go somewhere civilized.  Our next big trip is Israel, Jordan (Petra) and the Pyramids.

 

BKKSteve:  You both seem very happy during these outings.  Your vacations also seem to center around photography.  Recently you've been generous enough to share your trip to Kruger Park in Africa.  Is this something you both desire?  Most women I know would rather be in some ritzy city shopping mall than on safari?

Rob:  She does on occasion ask to go somewhere civilized.  Our next big trip is Israel, Jordan (Petra) and the Pyramids.  But we make the most of wherever we are.  This weekend just gone, for example, we slept in our car and drove 3,500 km looking for things to photograph.  And we got some good results.

 

Sao is Thai through and through, but is quick witted and savvy.  She is not one to get overly trapped in her own cultural boundaries which means

 

BKKSteve:  I hope you'll share some of those results to be posted with this interview.  This is a touchy subject for some and I apologize in advance for being so forward, but your wife is Thai and if we're to believe the rants we often read about Thailand it seems impossible that a Thai woman would have the natural curiosity nor the intellect to be so heavily involved with photography.  Knowing Sao she seems the complete antithesis of this stereotype.

Rob:  Sure, we'll provide some examples.  I am not one for stereotypes, which are hard to avoid when one steps out of ones own culture.  Sao is Thai through and through, but is quick witted and savvy.  She is not one to get overly trapped in her own cultural boundaries which means we have the sort of relationship you don't read about often.  Getting people to bend and often break their cultural boundaries is the key.  And it's a two way street.  If the traffic is one way, someone will get jaded and the cycle of decay begins.

 

 six Safaris.  Kruger park three times, Botswana twice and Kenya/Tanzania on another trip.  These are split between hosted tours and self drives.  Gear wise the minimum you need is an entry level DSLR Nikon D40 or Canon 450D or the likes and a zoom lens that reaches out to around 400mm

 

BKKSteve:  You are indeed fortunate.  We should all be so lucky.  About your safaris in Africa.  How many have you made and can you offer any recommendations for a first timer to get hooked up with a quality outfit without taking out a mortgage on their home?

Rob:  We've done six Safaris.  Kruger park three times, Botswana twice and Kenya/Tanzania on another trip.  These are split between hosted tours and self drives.  Gear wise the minimum you need is an entry level DSLR Nikon D40 or Canon 450D or the likes and a zoom lens that reaches out to around 400mm.  Anything less and you'll be disappointed.  I can only talk Canon, so a Canon entry level 500D and a 100-400 would be all anyone would need.  If the 100-400 is too pricey, a Sigma or Tokina would be sufficient.  The key is to get the shots.  As you photography develops you push the equipment and need to upgrade it.

 

A Tour is something organized by an operator who does everything for you including driving, cooking and camp preparation.

 

BKKSteve:  Self drives..  What is the difference between this and a hosted tour?

Rob:  A self drive is where you book and plan the trip yourself and head into the parks with a map, a car and a sense of adventure.  A Tour is something organized by an operator who does everything for you including driving, cooking and camp preparation.

 

Both my hosted tours were with Andy Biggs Safaris.  He is a professional photographer and these tours are catering for people wanting to take pictures.

 

BKKSteve:  Which would you recommend for a first timer?  I love adventure, but I'd think there is all kinds of potential danger from weather, wildlife, and maybe even natives?  Are there any outfits you'd recommend without reservation?

Rob:  Both my hosted tours were with Andy Biggs Safaris.  He is a professional photographer and these tours are catering for people wanting to take pictures. They are more expensive (one person per row per car rather than three) and include the benefit of good company (photographers) and coaching from Andy.  Other tours are good too, but may not be ideal for a serious photographer wanting to sit for three hours at one water hole.

 

 Kruger is a moderate to easy one.  Botswana is more heavy duty as you have to take all food and water and fuel in with you.  This trip is not for the faint hearted.  No fences, no limits.

 

Self drives are good when you go with someone knowledgeable (like we did) and you learn the ropes.  Next time we go, we'll let you know.  Coming with us would be a great start for anyone.  There are levels of self drive also.  Kruger is a moderate to easy one.  Botswana is more heavy duty as you have to take all food and water and fuel in with you.  This trip is not for the faint hearted.  No fences, no limits.

 

BKKSteve:  I'd love to go on such a trip.  Unfortunately finances can be an issue.  What kind of total prices for such an adventure are we looking at?  I'm a big adventure seeker.. though these days I'm more into having a bucket of crushed ice at my disposal at the end of the day..

 

A hawk on the hunt

 

Rob:  Self drives and tours are not dissimilar in price actually.  Surprising given the totally different experience. Bottom end would be around $5,000 each excluding air fares, as these vary so much from different destinations.  For people in Thailand, be happy, airfares to anywhere are less than half those coming from the US of A!!!

 

BKKSteve:  LOL!  And a lot less seat hours as well!  I've taken a lot of your time and it's very much appreciated as I think the readers will find your background and experiences very interesting.. but before you go would you share two things with us.

 

1.  Your plans for future trips

2.  Your plans for future equipment

3.  And what advice would you give a new photographer really looking to get out in the world and photograph things? 

 

Ok that's three.. but you are coming from an interesting perspective..

 

Rob:

 

1.  Europe, Middle East and Back to Africa in late 2010 or early 2011. Possibly Mala Mala (Google it)

2.  Reach.  I am getting two more big guns. 800/5.6's, budget permitting. I hear there's a new 100-400/3.5 in the pipe. This will be a definite must for any serious Canon guy and will heavily counter the 200-400/4 Nikon big gun!!

3.  For anyone wanting to get into some photography, forget the gear. That will come. Get a camera, any camera and learn to take photos. Composition is 90% of it. Once you're getting good photos, then push the boundaries.

 

BKKSteve:  Your plans sound fantastic.  I've always wanted to do the Afghanistan thing without a uniform.. but perhaps better to wait a few years.  The 800/5.6..  that's a big one.  Very curious how that performs for you and how you use it.  And I couldn't agree more about letting the gear take care of itself. There are plenty of really fine DSLRs on eBay for next to nothing, the Nikon D2h's for $700 or so, Canon 1d's for the same, both quality sports/wildlife DSLRs with the AF systems and speed to match.  Thanks for your time.  Please don't' forget to send us some pics to go with the column

Rob: You have the links to everything.

 

Parrot cracking nuts

 

BKKSteve:  I do, and thank you.  I want to thank you for your time.  I think many readers will find your thoughts interesting, and especially that you do so much of this with your wife.  The best bonus of all.  I'll check back with you in a few months and take you up on that offer for a second interview.. there is so much more about you we didn't cover.  Take care.