Monday, May 23, 2011


Work has been crazy recently so when I was asked to attend a meeting at our HQs near Venice I made an effort to take a few days out to look around and try and capture something a little different from the millions of other photos one may have seen of Venice canals and streets.

This first image captured my attention, first because of the contrast between the elegant old and tacky new. This was my first thought when I saw this scene, but the image is far more than this simple contrast. Despite the strong leading line from the bottom right by way of the stone wall, the eye is also pulled into the frame from the left by the saturated colours on the shutters. The leading lines converge and the eye is pulled forward with the rounded doors down to the sun lit church in the background. The dramatic sky adds to the tension of the slightly unbalanced composition.

This next image gives me a very different feeling. A feeling of the state of mind I was in while I sat in this square watching the world go by. There were so many people walking their dogs. I was watching them closely and taking several photos when suddenly the young girl's dog took chase of the other small dog. Suddenly the scene jumped from total peace to this dynamic scene. I've caught the girl in the centre of the two adults using their mobile phones but intrigued by the sudden commotion. The shadow of the tree helps to frame the action.

The couple sitting down at the door to this magnificent building were very aware of me taking the photo because a was waiting patiently for a pigeon to walk by. I took another photo without the couple once my intrusion urged them to leave, but the perspective of size was then lost along with very obvious line of sight from the bird to the couple then the building.

Unlike the first image, I only wanted to capture the contrast of old and new in this one. I was pleased that the graffiti was only painted on the moveable shutters, and once the gift stand was open the graffiti disappeared. I find sometimes for impact its best simply to place the main object dead centre.

Did I get any photos of gondolas and the grand canal? Yes I did but you've seen them all before

Friday, March 25, 2011

French-Thai Photo Exhibitions

This month Bangkok hosts several photo exhibitions presenting famous French and Thai photographers works. I've visited a few of the exhibitions and made some notes;

Fashion Story - Secrets of French Fashion presents works from some of France's most famous fashion photographers such as Jean Marie Perier, Gerald Uferas and Francoise Huguier. The photographs cover all aspects of the fashion world with some really fine portraits of people like Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and the now infamous John Galliano. I imagine that if the same exhibition goes to London, Paris or New York the photos of John Galliano may be removed after his recent drunken anti-semitic outburst that ended up with him being arrested and fired from his job as head designer for Christian Dior.

Some of the most interesting photos in the exhibition for me were actually taken by British photographer Derek Hudson. He has captured some of the fascinating back stage drama. He captures the rush and drama involved before all the glamour of the 'cat walk'.

Next on my list was the exhibition titled "Portraits of Asia" by French photographer Eric Lafforgue. More than 50 prints enlarged to approximately 1.5m x 1.0m. I love large size prints as they really add some drama to the image, but only if the quality of the image is high enough to pass the magnified scrutiny. In Lafforgue's case every image passed with flying colours. It was clear to me that his photographs were not simply quick shots of people he happened to come across during his trips through Asia, but carefully posed shots using high end equipment such as his Hasselblad H4D-50 and Leica M6.

This exhibition was outside and in the bright sunlight, but his photos still managed to pop out with all their colour and drama.

The next exhibition I visited was in a small photo gallery called Kathmandu Photo Gallery that I often visit. This exhibition was of the late SH Lim's work. Here is the gallery's description;

"An encounter with S. H. Lim (Vivat Pitayaviriyakul) and his fashion and glamour photography is akin to a trip in a Time Machine. Back to the glory days and uncomplicated appeal of Thai cinema and beauty contests post-1957. His photographic prints have become the memory of that age, appearing as magazine covers, calendars and movie posters; all of them vivacious, beautiful, elegant, cool and dynamically sexy: Thailand’s first Miss Universe, Apasara Hongsakul, stepping out of an aeroplane fresh from her triumph in Miami, an angelic visitation to earthlings; Priya Rungruang, eternal sex siren, in a ‘two-piece’; Apuntree Prayuthsenee, Miss Thailand 1967, in Thai traditional dress. Or bikini-clad free-spirited star Orasa Israngkura na Ayathaya, exuberantly leaping in the air over coconut fronds. These are iconic images, but their photographer remains unknown to most of us.

S. H. Lim, a Thai photographer of Chinese blood, was born in 1930. A self-taught lensman, he took pictures for many well-known Thai publications such as Sakul Thai, Bangkok Weekly, Ploenjit, Or Sor Tor and Seansuk, from 1962 until his retirement after 1987. In 1963 he was awarded the silver and bronze medals by the New York Kodak Expo Photography Contest.

Kathmandu Photo Gallery is proud to present the work of S. H. Lim (Vivat Pityaviriyakul), as the first of our ‘Seeking Forgotten Thai Photographers’ project to highlight master photographers hitherto neglected by official Thai photographic history."

(copied from )

One of the most interesting photos in this exhibition was of a girl sitting on a beach with her back to the camera. In the foreground is a stick in the sand with the model's bra draped over the stick. This is quite an old photo and for such a conservative country this would have been a very daring photo to make and display in public. It still looks very enticing even today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Below is a palladium print made from large format film created by Tillman Crane. It was taken at St Columba’s Chapel, Isle of Iona. In the foreground of the frame is an old window ledge with several small stones of different sizes and shapes. In the center background there is the lower part of a window, and old white washed walls on either side.

Crane has captured the mystery of the scene in a simple style. He has made sure the main subjects are correctly exposed and left the window highlighted. There is no need to see what is outside as the story is about the stones and why they are placed on the window sill.

Before reading about the location of the scene, I felt that it was indeed somewhere old and used from the rough stone work and small window frame. The image fills me with sadness for some unknown reason; perhaps because of the feeling of remoteness that I get from the image and the unknown story behind each stone. Were they all placed there by one person or several different people? What were they thinking, feeling when they placed the stones?

I feel drawn to this place to witness this simple but mysterious scene and of course to photograph it in such a way as to capture the same feeling as I get when viewing Crane’s photograph.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


While searching the web for some interesting photo blogs a few months back, I came across a site called Chromasia -

This site is dedicated to providing tutorials on the finer techniques of Photoshop and covers the following;



Luminosity masks



Night Photographs

Black & white

HDR & Lab colour modes

The tutorials are very clearly written and have several short videos to help with understanding the techniques. They are not free of charge but are good quality for money.

I particularly liked the tutorials on luminosity masking, and have produced some really great results from using these techniques. Using the luminosity masks one can quickly select any range of tones within a image and then apply adjustments such as curves or colour only to those selected areas. I only had to follow the in depth instructions once using Photoshop 'Actions' and now I have the selection technique ready at one simple click in 'Actions' palette.

Here's a sample from the tutorial on masking.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

chema madoz

I came across the photographer Chema Madoz when looking through the latest entries into 500 Photographers, and was amazed at the astounding imagination that has gone into creating these simple but brilliant images. His images show strength, simplicity and great imagination.

When I first started taking photographs, this was the type of work I wanted so much to do, but I lacked the photography skills at that time. Madoz's work is simply wonderful and I look forward to exploring more of his work.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last few photos

After seeing an acquaintance's images of the building below, I rushed down to the location for fear some builder would pull it down before I got there. This is the old customs house, built in 1880s, where most goods for Bangkok arrived at the beginning of last century. It's now been taken over by a local fire department and houses the firemen and their families. As you can see from the few images I've posted below, it doesn't look very safe or hospitable.

I may try and arrange to go back and photograph the interior, but will need special permission as all of the rooms inside are lived in. There are reports that the fire brigade have been asked to move out so it can be taken over by a large resort group and converted.

This is the main entrance and where the large fire trucks have to navigate when on call and returning. I was lucky in that it had just rained, making a more interesting road texture.

Looking back at the main entrance

The main building designed by an Italian architect as were many of Bangkok's finest structures in the 18th century.

A grand stair case at the entrance to the main building. I had to make several exposures and later blend them together. I've also cloned out the door on the left it was just a black mass.

Up close on some of the accommodation.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review

Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski

This book contains 100 pictures from the Museum of Modern Art, New York that have been chosen and written about by John Szarkowski.

The majority of the photographs are by famous photographers and Szarkowski provides an interesting essay in the form of historical notes about when and where the photograph was taken, some history about the photographer and for some of the photographs he explains why the aesthetics of the photograph work.

As John Szarkowski was one of the most important advocators for promoting photographs as pieces of art and promoting certain photographers to be entered into the cannons of Master Photographers, I was slightly disappointed that he has not provided more of his knowledge about the aesthetics of these photographs; in other words, why he considered a particular photograph to be so successful.

I don’t believe that Szarkowski chose all of the photographs because he thought they were aesthetically successful, but more of a mixture of aesthetics and some simply because they had an interesting history either in the form of when and where or who had taken them.

I do wish one of the few famous photo critics or someone as respected as John Szarkowski would write a book titled “This Photo is Successful Because”.

Sometimes wishes are granted; two months after reading the above book I sent away for Why Photographs Work by George Barr - 52 Great Images: Who Made Them, What Makes Them Special and Why.

This is the book I have wished for so many times. It contains a wide variety of images from famous to not so famous photographers. George Barr provides his thoughts on why each image is special then the photographer who took the image explains what their thoughts were in making the image. A short biography of each photographer is included and some technical information.

I believe this book will soon be added to the usual list of photography course work recommended books. There is nothing else out there that I have seen that will teach one so much, so quickly, so precisely and so interestingly.

Two thumbs up from this photographer!