Thursday, May 18, 2017

Life Goes On

Bringing the kids home from school in Pom Mahakan. 

I've gone back to Pom Mahakan a couple of times since we got back to Bangkok. There were more evictions in the fort while we were in the US but there are still 30-35 families living inside the walls of the old fort. Bangkok authorities still plan to evict the other residents and build a park on the site. 
An architecture student sketches inside a home. The family that lived in the home was evicted in April but a few of their belongings are still in the house. 

There's a sort of ennui among the residents of the fort now. They know their time is short and there's nothing they can do about it. What is most distressing (for me anyhow) is that there's also no apparent time line. The final evictions could be next week. Or maybe next year. No one knows. At one point in April, while we were in the US, Bangkok media reported that city officials wanted to open the park this month (May, 2017). That seems optimistic but not impossible. 
Tourists walk through Pom Mahakan. 

Interestingly, as Pom Mahakan's story spreads (there have been recent stories in the New York Times and other western news outlets) more and more tourists, both Thai and foreign, are coming down to the fort. An architect's group is busy making sketches of the historic homes before they're gone. It's like a closeout sale on history is taking place. 

And through it all, residents try to live their lives. 
A back to school haircut in a home in Pom Mahakan. Thai schools' "summer" break is in April. The school year starts in May.  

Even as the residents hang on, the city is going ahead with the construction of the park. The debris of the homes torn down over the last nine months (about 1/3 of the homes in the fort have been demolished) has finally been removed. Some parts of the fort have been newly landscaped and there are piles of new dirt and potted plants awaiting construction crews. There's even a small community garden on the site of a demolished home. 
A new community garden on the site of a demolished home. The city government hung a PR photo at the back of the garden. 

Some of the old home sites have been turned into public space where residents gather to gossip in the evening, after the mid day heat has abated. 
People gather to gossip in the evening. There used to be two homes on this site. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Powwow for Hope

(This is the last blog entry from our trip to Minneapolis)
A dancer performs during the Grand Entry at the Powwow for Hope at the Base Camp in Ft. Snelling

The last thing I photographed before we left the Twin Cities was the Powwow for Hope, a fundraising powwow sponsored by the American Indian Cancer Foundation. The powwow was an intertribal with hundreds of dancers, most from the upper Midwest. 
One of the youth dancers gets help from her grandmother while she gets ready for the powwow. She said three of her uncles battled cancer, and one, a Vietnam era veteran, died of lymphoma traced back to Agent Orange exposure. 

I covered a lot of powwows when we lived in Arizona, which has a large Native American community (the Navajo Nation, in the northwest corner of Arizona and crosses into New Mexico and Utah, is the largest reservation in the US), but I haven't covered a powwow since moving to Thailand in 2012. 

This powwow was unique because it was a fundraiser for cancer research and to support Native Americans (and their families) battling cancer. I think when people consider the health issues facing Native Americans they generally put heart disease and diabetes at the top of the list. 

Certainly in my time photographing Native Americans in the Southwest, a recurring health theme was heart disease and diabetes, which is rampant on reservations. Generally for the same reasons they're rampant in inner city communities and poor rural communities - the low cost, high calorie, processed food diets of people in poverty lead to so called lifestyle diseases. But according to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, cancers are actually the leading cause of death for Native Americans (at least in Minnesota). 
Dancers line up for the Grand Entry.

The powwow lasted most of the afternoon and featured intertribal dances, dances for survivors, team dances, healing dances and healthy food (i.e. no frybread). It was a good way to spend an afternoon. 
A slowish shutter speed exposure of dancers in the Grand Entry.

On a technical note, I photographed the powwow with my Olympus E-M1 Mark II bodies. I traded in my several years old E-M5 Mark II bodies and bought the new bodies while we were in Minneapolis. They performed very well but what I was happiest about was the autofocus, which in single shot is very fast but even the continuous autofocus worked nearly as well as it did in the Canon 5D Mark III bodies (that I stopped using in 2014). I was very happy with the E-M5 Mark II bodies, but I thought the continuous AF was their Achilles' Heel. 
Dancing during an intertribal. 

It was not an exhaustive test of continuous autofocus, but it was much better than the C-AF on any of the other mirrorless bodies I've used. I will be testing it more in future weeks. 
A tribal elder talks to kids and encourages them to join an intertribal dance that didn't require fancy dress.


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Protecting Their Right to Choose

Women and men who want to protect women's right to make their own health care choices line the hallway in front of the Minnesota State Senate in the State Capitol.

We spent a lot of time at the Minnesota State Capitol during our trip back to the US in April and May. There were several protests at the Capitol that I wanted to cover including the Science March, May Day and a Planned Parenthood protest against the Minnesota State Senate GOP, which passed several laws to restrict women's rights to make their own health decisions. 

About 50 people responded to a last minute call by Planned Parenthood to come down to the Capitol and rally in the hallways in front of the State Senate. 
People chant in front of the Senate chambers.
A black and white photo of protesters made with my Pen F in the monochrome mode

At one point, more than 100 ecumenical progressive Christians joined the group. The Christians were in the Capitol to protest GOP efforts to roll back workers' rights protections (like sick leave and child care) that Twin Cities municipalities were passing as local ordinances. (This is a part of a national trend of state legislatures, controlled by Republicans, trying to roll back or prohibit local ordinances passed by Democratic city councils.) 

As expected, the State Senate passed the laws, which, as expected, were vetoed by Minnesota's Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton
A woman dressed as a "Handmaid" from Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" (and Hulu series) climbs the stairs to the Senate Chamber. Women dressed as Handmaid's are coming to more and more rallies for choice as the dystopian novel becomes more relevant with every passing day. 
Progressive Christians pass the Handmaid. 


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day in Minnesota

Immigrants' rights supporters in the Minnesota State Capitol. 

Hundreds of immigrants' and workers' rights supported came to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on May Day to demonstrate against attacks on immgrants and workers.

They stopped at the Governor's office before moving on to the rotunda of the building. 
Marching through the building. 

Minnesota has a reputation for being one of the whitest states in the country. This may have been true early in the 20th century but now it couldn't be further from the truth (and it ignores Minnesota's Native American community, that predates, by centuries, European arrivals in the state). Minnesota communities have opened their doors to refugees and immigrants from around the world. In fact the Twin Cities are a very diverse place with thriving immigrant communities from around the world.
Somali immigrants demand housing rights in the rotunda (Glendale is an affordable apartment complex in the Minneapolis suburbs that is being "gentrified" which may push the Somalis out.)
Protesters in the rotunda. 

The march, like the March for Science, was ostensibly non-partisan. But like the March for Science, it was clear for whom the barbs were intended: Trump and Republicans who are making immigrants unwelcome in America. 
An immigrants' rights activist waves a Mexican flag on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. 

A boy who attended the march catches snowflakes on his tongue. On May 1, not February 1. It's a Minnesota spring day. 


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science

Children line up for the Children's Climate March, which led the Minnesota March for Science at the State Capitol in St. Paul. 

Tens of thousands of people came to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul to attend the March for Science on Earth Day. Originally about 10,000 people were expected to attend the march and early reports stayed with the 10,000 number. But as the crowd grew, eventually extending from the State Capitol to the St. Paul Cathedral, the 10,000 number seemed low. Ultimately, the March for Science organizers said 50,000 people joined the march. 
Made from the steps of the Capitol looking back towards the St. Paul Cathedral. This is less than 1/2 of the crowd. 

The march was billed as being non-partisan and there were few overt signs of partisanship. But with one political party consistently denying the role of science or fact based decision making, it was clear who marchers were targeting. Despite the presence of an elephantish creation in the march, I don't think there were many Trump voters in the crowd. (It was actually a mastodon.)  
An ingenious mastodon people powered puppet led a group of marchers to the Capitol. 

Nahuatl, or Mexican Aztec, dancers led the march to the Capitol. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Remembering Prince

(I am writing a series of new entries based on our trip back to Minnesota in April and May.)
A woman lights candles at a memorial for Prince near "Paisley Park" in Chanhassen, MN. 

Prince Rodgers Nelson, the iconic singer, and the most famous person to come out of Minneapolis died on April 21, 2016. We went back out to Paisley Park on April 21, 2017, to mark the one year anniversary of his death. 
With the help of a passerby, a woman leaves a note for Prince in the pedestrian tunnel that goes below the highway in front of Paisley Park. Both people traveled to Minneapolis from out of state to participate in Prince memorials. 

The sense of grief was still palpable. The public didn't have access to Paisley Park (admission was limited to ticket holders), so the tunnel leading to his home was turned into a memorial. Some people left memorials on the fence surrounding Paisley Park, but most people gathered in the tunnel. 
A woman takes a picture of flowers on the fence at Paisley Park, next to a carved replica of Prince's most famous guitar. 

In the tunnel, people sign a wall decorated with Prince's logo. 

There were also memorial events at First Ave, the nightclub Prince made famous in his movie "Purpple Rain." What struck me at Paisley Park was how most of the people in the tunnel were from out of town. Maybe Minnesotans skipped Paisley Park and went to the First Ave dance parties but it seemed like almost everyone outside the Paisley Park fence was from somewhere else.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Basic Black (and White)

Mourners wait to pay their respects to His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Late King of Thailand, at Wat Phra Kaew. Made with my Pen F, 25mm f1.8 lens (50mm equivalent in full frame terms), ISO 200, f1.8 @ 1/80th. Exposure compensation set to -1 stop because I wanted to keep deep blacks. 

I bought an Olympus Pen F when I was in Singapore last year and reviewed it here in February. It's been my principal camera for most assignments since then. One of the things I mentioned in the review was the lovely black and white JPEGs this camera makes. 
A family in Pom Mahakan. Pen F, 25mm f1.8 lens, ISO 200, f1.8 @ 1/100th. 

I've made more black and white frames in the last two months than I have since converting to all digital more than 15 years ago. Black and white in the digital era is not new. Leica even makes an absurdly expensive Monochrome only rangefinder (though describing any Leica product as "absurdly expensive" is redundant). A quick glance at almost any contest entries will show you that black and white photography is thriving. The thing is though, most of those photos are color photos processed in Lightroom (or Affinity Photo or any other program) and exported in black and white. 
Motorcycle taxis wait for fares on a Bangkok street corner. Pen F, 25mm f1.8 lens, ISO200, f1.8 @ 1/800th.

If I am going to make black and white pictures, I want to make them in black and white, not convert color files to black and white. And the Pen F files, especially using what I've set as my Tri-X simulation mode, generates very nice black and white files.
Feeding pigeons along the Chao Phraya River. Pen F, 25mm f1.8 lens, ISO200, f1.8 @ 1/2500th.

I started with Olympus' basic black and white settings, which had a lot of contrast and a lot of grain, and went from there. I thought the Olympus default files looked like Tri-X pushed to 3200, so I dialed the contrast down a little and the grain down a lot (the default on the grain is High). 

I tried working with grain turned off, but I didn't like that - pictures were too clean (kind of like the BW files from the Canon 5D Mark III bodies I no longer have). I ultimately settled on Low. High was way too grainy for my taste and Medium was bordeline. The Low setting gave me a little of the texture of grain without overpowering the photo. 
Delivering Buddha statues in Bangkok. Pen F, 17mm f1.8 (34mm equivalent in full frame terms), ISO200, f1.8 @ 1/6400th. 

I really like the look I am getting from these JPEGs. I always photograph in RAW+JPEG with my Olympus cameras. Before the Pen F, my JPEG setting was full resolution at "normal" compression and I used the JPEGs to feed my Instagram account, but I didn't archive them. I'm so happy with the Pen F black and white JPEGs that I save them at full resolution and "Super Fine" compression (highest quality, lowest compression), I archive them in my Lightroom catalog and I've started putting them into my online archive
Songkran travelers wait for their train at Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok. Pen F, 17mm f1.8 lens, ISO200, f1.8 @ 1/160th. 

Songkran travelers in the station. 17mm f1.8 lens, ISO250, f1.8 @ 1/30th. 

I still need the color files though because most publishers and photography users prefer color. That's where working in RAW+JPEG comes in. I have the really nice JPEG files for personal use and I have the color raw files for my archive and sales. The raw files I process normally in Lightroom. 

It's the best of both worlds in one camera body. Back in the day, when I was working with film, I always had one body (or more, depending on the assignment) with color slide film and one body (or more) with black and white film (actually, in my case it was Ilford's HP5+, not Tri-X). Now both come out of the little Pen F.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Morning at Boudhanath Stupa

A Buddhist monk prostrates himself as other monks walk clockwise around Boudhanath Stupa during morning prayers. 

One of the most lovely parts of Kathmandu is the area Boudhanath Stupa. It's the center of Nepal's Buddhist community and the heart of the Tibetan exile community in Nepal. Although the exact date of the stupa's construction is unknown, based on the history of the Kathmandu valley it's thought that the stupa was built sometime between 464CE and 604CE, although some put the construction much later - around the 14th century CE. It's been rebuilt since then of course, most recently just last year, to repair damage from the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Rebuilding or not, the sense of history at the stupa is palpable. 
A time exposure of people walking around the stupa before sunrise during morning prayers.

I've spent a lot of time at the stupa during my visits to Kathmandu. But I was never there early in the morning, for morning prayers. This time, I made it a point to visit the stupa a couple of time for morning prayers. I am glad I did. 

I got to the stupa about 05.00, before the crowds arrived. (In this case crowds refers to Nepalese and Tibetan faithful - very few tourists show up for morning prayers.) By 05.30 though the stupa was very crowded with people walking clockwise around the stupa, reciting Buddhist mantras. The monasteries around the stupa open their doors for morning prayers around 05.45. People don't come in and sit in pews as they do in Christian churches though. 

Morning prayers in a monastery at the stupa. 

Monks sit and chant in the prayer hall while people come in and walk clockwise around the room lighting butter lamps and reciting mantras. 

People light butter lamps at monasteries around the stupa. 

The process is always repeating itself, the faithful seemingly unaware of the few tourists who do show up.


In a small prayer area at the base of the stupa people come to pray and prostrate themselves on wooden boards. 

Most tourists go to the stupa in the evening, especially on full moon nights (there's a full moon ceremony every month) but I think the best time to go to the stupa is early. It's a little less convenient, especially if your hotel is across town or in the Thamel area, but the experience is much more rewarding. 


(All of the photos were made with my Olympus Pen F and Olympus prime lenses.)

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Holi in Bhaktapur

A Nepali man covered in red powder at the Holi celebration in Bhaktapur. 

We went to the Holi celebration in Bhaktapur during Gavin Gough's excellent workshop in Nepal. Holi is a Hindu holiday celebrating, among other things, the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of spring. The most visible part of Holi is the joyful spreading of colorful powder, sometimes but not always mixed with water, on people. Which is how the gentlemen in the photo got his complexion. 

Men celebrate Holi in Bhaktapur...
A woman in Bhaktapur's Holi "mosh pit" dances. 

Holi in India has gotten a well deserved reputation for rowdiness and I was expecting Nepal's celebration to be just as rowdy. Nepalese authorities, concerned about the day's increasing rowdiness, have taken a tough love approach to the holiday. Revelers aren't allowed to spray water or throw powder at people unless they get permission first, and, at least in Bhaktapur, the revelers take the restrictions seriously. 
Revelers covered in red powder dance in a public square in Bhaktapur. The man in the middle is holding Nepal's distinctive flag. 
A man under the water spray in Bhaktapur

Everytime someone wanted to throw powder at us or spray us with water, they first politely approached and asked if it was okay. If we said okay (which we always did) then we were pelted. But it was always in good fun and the partiers made every effort to avoid our cameras and bags. It was much different from covering Songkran in Thailand. 
Children on their way home after a Holi party. 

This was my first Holi and it was a lot of fun. There are more photos of the day in my archive

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.