I learned many things during our Laos trip and one of them was to really appreciate gorgeous mountains. As every reader knows by now I tend to go on (and on) about wide open dimensionless desolate flat spaces. But driving around the incredible gorgeous mountains of East Laos blew my mind. Everywhere, absolutely everywhere my eyes darted, majestic mountainscapes were present. Another added bonus of mountains and the air in these altitudes were the incredibly blue sky and simply stunning cloudscapes masterly painted onto the big big sky.
The mountains pose a challenge though, finding somewhere to shoot! Driving on a small path in a 4WD, most of the time there are bushes, trees and all sorts of stuff in front. To get a clear shot requires testing gravity or towing a really tall ladder! Or just the patience to wait for a spot to pull over where the view is unimpeded. One afternoon as the sun was low and setting we were treated to some ethereal rays of lights shining through the clouds and I created this image:
This is just a single image slightly cropped. There was not always time to setup tripod and shoot stitched panos etc. The important lesson here is take what you can get. I have warmed the colours some, in the original it has a more cold cast to it but I feel perfectly fine about altering the look of a scene like this. I am attempting to create art, this is not a documentary nor photojournalism. I was able to capture the dynamic range in one raw file and then worked the image in Lightroom and Photoshop to bring out the deep in shade foreground slight and warm the colours. What do you think of the result?
Christmas comes in many different forms for many different people, cultures and religions. Whichever way you spend the upcoming holidays I want to extend my best wishes for a great and merry Christmas for you and your family and loved ones!
I am posting the weirdest and most surreal Xmas decoration ever. This is from the entrance in a guesthouse in Phonsavan in Laos. Now; Laos being the most heavily bombed country in the world with a lot of unexploded ordnance still not cleared – you would think that bombs on display would be the last thing you would see. But no, they seem to display them as a sort of tourist attraction or…I don’t know. We all just stood there staring at this and just, it just does not compute. This is some large bomb with a lot of small cluster bombs (particularly evil) as decorations. And a Merry Xmas sign. So surreal!
I am spending Christmas in the tropics this year with dear friends, in my present home of Chiang Mai, Thailand. This being a buddhist country there is little in the way of Christmas decorations and I am quite thankful for that. Except in the large shopping mall where the "farrangs" (foreigners) get to enjoy a gigantic plastic tree and Thai versions of White Christmas so truly awful your ears bleed! I hate shopping malls with a passion but just when you think they could not get any worse! Copenhagen is covered in snow experiencing truly arctic temperatures, but we have a nice 30 degrees during the day and a big bright sun to go with it!
Quick, have a look at this image, do not look at my post title. Where would you guess this image was captured? Oh bugger, I put the country in the image title as well. But, would you ever guess this was Laos and not outback Australia or Namibia? Also reminds me of some images from Chile I have seen.
Driving around the town of Phonsavan in Laos for about half an hour we suddenly find us in this amazing arid area completely covered in deep orange coloured dust. I mean covered. Every hut was orange, every tree was orange. The clouds were magnificent and it all added up to a classic (cliché?) me shot – outback dusty road, this time in Laos! I will do a book on Wide Open Spaces someday when I have enough material, I cannot get enough of these dimensionless magic open spaces!
This image is 7 or 8 images stitched in PTgui. Composition is extremely important to me and I sometimes struggle with it in stitched panoramas. Simply because one cannot see the end result in the viewfinder. But here I feel I came reasonably close to achieving that envisioned. I want a composition where the road runs into infinity, where the viewpoint is low, where all leading lines start at the corners and pull you into the image, where the sky itself is also leading lines pulling you into the magic (getting carried away here). Only thing I am unhappy with is the lower right corner, that curved line is from stitching with a very wide view. Should be straighter. I always shoot a single image 17mm wide angle shot as well in case I do not like my stitched composition. I have often thrown away the stitch and gone for the single image as composition is king for me. There’s a big difference between a good photo and a detailed photo. Stitch may have more details, but it may not be the better image.
If possible, I always have to get myself a road / driving shot. It says movement to me, travel, new opportunities, new horizon. This orange dusty outback road in Laos is already one of my favourite road to infinity images!
A book on My Wide Open Spaces – would you be interested?
“I’ve…seen things you people wouldn’t believe”. Classic line, classic movie. And when you stand on the balcony of your friend’s flat on the 21nd floor and look out over Bangkok I instantly think about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – better known as Blade Runner. All that is missing is Vangelis brilliant soundtrack and some rain.
“If only you could see what I have seen with your eyes!”. Well you can or at least you can see what my camera saw! This is a 9 image stitch at roughly 35mm, shot on my 17-40mm L lens. Stitched perfectly on PTgui and the detail in the original is amazing. I still need to work a bit on the sky before printing, it is so hazy here that the city lights up the haze and create banding. Adding noise actually helps defeat banding when printing. Oh, and in this blog version I could not resist adding in a few flying Blade Runner “spinners” via some crude Photoshop work!
Bangkok defies description. Houses more people than all of Denmark. And when you walk the street it seems they are all on the same sidewalk as you. It is awful. And awfully fascinating for a day or two as everything reminds me of Blade Runner. Much too big for me though. Much too big for it’s own good, traffic can be impossible. So loud. So noisy. Then again, I endure cities, I love them not. I love nature. Cities are an evil necessity. Mother Nature will get revenge someday I hope!
“The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long”
“All these moments. Lost. In time. Like Tears. In the rain!”
Clichéd title. Probably even used it before. No matter! My writing will not make me rich and famous anyway, might as well recycle my own clichés! Anyway to become a cliché it has to be extremely good. Or popular. Wish I could become a cliché!
This particular Field of Dreams is a rice field in the mountains of East Laos, driving towards the village of Nonghat close to the Vietnam border. After one day in the capital Vientiane – awful touristy place, more on that later, whoever rebuilt this city ruined it – we flew to the remote town of Phonsavan and met our car, driver and guide. We drive up the mountains on curvy small roads snaking their way through gorgeous landscapes and charming villages with nothing but wooden huts, smiling villagers and simple country living. I never want to leave. As the sun starts setting and golden hour is upon us we start scouting for a nice location. Being me I want a big wide open space, not easy to find in mountains. But suddenly this beautiful flat dry brown rice field appears as if someone heard my request. Perfect timing, perfect location. Perfect colours as the dry orange rice crops really pick up the colour of the setting sun. Perfect moment that I captured this way:
You are not really supposed to walk off road or off path. Laos is still home to so many unexploded bombs dropped by USA during the Vietnam war. US Airforce used Laos as a garbage bin, you don’t want to land with bombs on your plane so if the pilots had any leftovers returning from raids in Vietnam, it was dumped unexploded on Laos before returning to base. Thanks USA! So any step off track could be your last. Here, it is a rice field though so plenty of footsteps before me and I was careful to only walk on the paths.
This is a stitched panorama of 7 or 8 images, developed in Lightroom and stitched in PTgui. Images like these are easy. Nature is the artist. I merely composed, shot stitched, colour balanced and also painted a bit with light to enhance the hut. But Mother Nature is the artist here, love her to bits!
Field of Dreams in Laos was truly beautiful. Stay tuned for the sequels, Solitary Tree in Laos and Outback Road in Laos. I warned you I am a cliché!
I have just returned to my home in Chiang Mai, Thailand after some mindblowing days in Laos. Most of the time was spent in remote hmong hilltribe villages in absolutely drop dead stunning mountain landscapes in the Xieng Khoung province. Driving through these mountains in a 4WD through stunning mountainscapes and then visiting villages so remote the kids had never met a "white fella” before. The joy, innocence, strength and laughter from these kids were moving and inspirational and hard to stop smiling and laughing. Naturally, the camera and watching themselves on the lcd screen caused a lot of stunned laughs from the kids!
I am nursing a hilltribe cold (warm in the day but at night in these mountains in a guesthouse with no heating and no windows – COLD!) so more to come later, more stories and many more images. Here’s one of the hmong tribe boys who instantly took to the camera, he tried to pose and appear in every shot:
I am off to Bangkok today and tomorrow into Laos for an exciting 4 day expedition. Should hopefully have some interesting images to show you as I get back online in a week or so, see you then!