Yesterday’s photo was a hint that the Cosplay crowd are back in town; a sub-culture of harmless strangeness which congregated in a local mall yesterday for much giggling and prancing about.
There were several photographers there and I was approached by a young man with an “Olympus Club” T-shirt, a wide grin and an E-M5. We proceeded to wax lyrical about our cameras and commandeered a convenient table to compare lens collections. He had the Panasonic 35-100mm which looked like a sexy piece of kit. In response I flourished my 75mm and then proceeded to use it to take most of the shots below. Shit, low light; so mostly shot wide open at F1.8 with the image stabiliser allowing me to go as low as 1/25th second.
Those who care about these things may like to know that Lightroom 5 is now available. The price in the USA for the upgrade is $79, the price in the Adobe South East Asia store is 2,363 baht, which is pretty much the identical price; a pleasant change after some of Adobe’s previous pricing strategies outside of the States.
Anyway, I have handed them my credit card details and the software is currently downloading. Hopefully my existing catalogues will convert without a problem (assuming they need conversion).
One of the attractions of the park is a dawn view where you look over surrounding mountains surrounded by mist. Opinions probably differ whether this is worth getting up at 0445 to experience; my opinion was that it wasn’t; but we did anyway. While the rest of the gang tucked into pork congee soup, I stuck to my vegetarian credentials thanks to yoghurt, muesli and blueberries that I had carefully transported from home; what a star.
Then it was into the back of a truck for the long drive to the top of the park, and a chance to discover just how many bugs are up and about and committing suicide against your face in the pre-dawn light.
The view from the top was not as misty as it should have been and we were left to wander around with a vague feeling of disappointment; lifted slightly by the arrival of a troop of monkeys that swung through the trees with considerable crashing and general exuberance; pausing only briefly to check us out.
Later on in the day, as we drove through the park camp, we came upon a much less spirited specimen; cuddled up to a ranger and looking sad. He had been stolen as a baby from a forest and put up for sale at Chatuchak market where some idiot had bought him as a pet; only to discover that monkeys are not pets. The unfortunate creature had then been dumped in the park where, due to a complete lack of wild monkey social skills, he had been attacked by the wild monkeys and sought refuge with the rangers who were now caring for him.
May all those involved in the unpleasant transactions suffer an unpleasant death.
As well as photographing butterflies, we had intentions of capturing loads of other macro subjects; but a quick inspection of nearby trails indicated that there was not much on offer. And anyway, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the butterflies.
On the way back to camp our guide asked us if we would like to photograph a couple of birds. Yes we would.
The first was a conveniently placed nest just off the road, where an egg was getting warmth from both a male and female of the species whose name I was told but immediately forgot. They would take it in turns to sit on the egg and I was instructed how to tell the difference between the male and the female; but I immediately forgot.
Although the location was convenient, it was very dark; not helped by an approaching storm. So I was forced to use ISO 6400. Given that, I was quite pleased how well the shots turned out.
Then it started to rain and it was suggested we take shelter under the eaves of a building which just happened to look out on a tree containing a woodpecker nest. As we arrived, the woodpecker flew out of the tree and the owner of our resort, who had joined us for this shoot, advised we would now wait up for an hour for the bird to return. So we set up our cameras and waited.
The owner told us that the woodpecker would make a very particular sound as it returned, to alert the babies that it was coming. It would also sit in a nearby tree and check things out before returning to the nest; so we all had to be very quiet.
Bums rapidly numbing, we awaited the return of the woodpecker. The minutes rolled by in silence until suddenly the valley reverberated to the sound of snoring; our resident expert had ignored all his advice by failing to stay alert and failing to stay quiet. Amazingly, he awoke just before the bird returned.
Sod’s law dictated that the bird did not return to the same hole from which it had exited; which required me to move my gear around; at which point he immediately moved up to the original hole. As a result, I only caught a single shot and it is not the best.
All of the bird shots were taken with the Panasonic 100-300mm lens. It’s competent enough if you stay away from the furthest reaches of its zoom; but both Nick and I were mentally retaining funds for the Panasonic 150mm F2.8; if and when it ever appears.
Kaeng Krachan National Park is a popular spot for bird photography, and clumps of patient men with long lenses can be found hanging out in the undergrowth in the hope of a passing tweet.
But our quarry was much smaller, and more evident. As you drive through the park you cross three streams, creatively named stream 1, 2 and 3. At each of these streams there are hundreds of butterflies, mainly clustered together in damp patches, sucking whatever it is they suck out of the soil.
The air is thick with butterflies in transit, and nearby bushes feature regular butterfly visitors; it’s butterfly photography heaven.
But after a few minutes of just soaking up the atmosphere, you realise that this may not be an easy snapping location. Butterflies on leaves bugger off when you come near, just as they do everywhere else, and the sucking crowds also take flight when you get close. Eventually they return, but just as you are focusing on one butterfly, another lands in front of your lens; they just have no respect for the photographic process.
Still, after macro outings where we would normally see a butterfly an hour, and that at a distance; this was something close to paradise. Even my camera bag attracted more butterflies than I would normally see in a month.
I tried lying on the ground, up close to the action.
Other than being rather uncomfortable and being stung by a wasp, more often than not my attempts at gaining focus were thwarted by another beastie landing in front of my target. So I pursued butterflies around the bushes, disturbing some ants who rapidly disappeared off a leaf and appeared on my leg a few moments later; more bites.
We spent many hours at the three streams. We had been somewhat concerned that our ladies might become bored; but they seemed similarly captivated and had a GF1 and EP1 to play with; so they happily snapped away all day.
Upon reflection, Nik and I both felt we had not made the most of the opportunity. We had behaved with the same level of wild-eyed enthusiasm as man released from prison and transported to a brothel (I surmise, I have not seen the inside of a prison or a brothel). A more considered approach would have provided more and better shots; we will have to return.
Here are some shots from the day, all taken with the E-M5 and the Olympus 60mm lens:
Most of the butterfly shots that I took on our recent trip were with the Olympus 60mm macro. However, I did take along the Panasonic 100-300mm; just in case there were any birds to snap (there were). When I saw this butterfly perched high up in the bushes, I used the long lens and got this:
The original plan was for a photo trip to Kaeng Krachan National Park with neighbour Nik. A couple of days of hardcore insect hunting, free from distractions.
Then she who must be obeyed discovered she had a three day holiday and decided she wanted to come. Then Nik’s girlfriend decided she wanted to come too, and that she had a friend living nearby that she and Nik could visit after the park.
The upshot was two cars, four people, and a nagging concern that the ladies would find a day stuck in a national park to be a bore (which turned out to be unfounded, they had a great time).
So off to Kaeng Krachan National Park with my wife, and all goes well until we turn off the Bangkok bypass and head south down the coast on the opposite side of the Gulf. The traffic slows to a stop; which always seems to be the time when she who must be obeyed decides she needs to pee.
I need a pee.
We are in the outside lane of a three lane jam, with a further two lanes, also jammed, in the adjoining road. So that is five lanes to battle through before we have a hope of getting to a petrol station.
I need a pee.
So I forced my way through the traffic until finally we made it to the roadside lane, and then finally made it to a garage where she who must be obeyed left the car in a hurry making squeaking noises.
Back on the road and nobody is going anywhere, thanks to roadworks in the left two lanes. It is some time before we regain anything that could be regarded as flowing traffic.
We passed the salt fields where flooded salt water is allowed to dry and then the salt is extracted. A much relieved she who must be obeyed was in a pensive mood.
I have a good idea for a photograph. Take a model and cover her in salt, and then take her photo.
Yes, the would look unusual.
(Thinks for a while) Then afterwards you could deep fry her and eat her!
My wife’s brain works in mysterious ways sometimes.
Of course, thoughts about food, however strange, led to the inevitable “I need a pee, and food”; so we stopped for lunch.
Reached the park late afternoon and were pleased to discover that our resort was just a kilometre from the park gates. Rather than check-in, we decided to check out the park. Entry was 200 baht for a farang and 30 baht for a Thai; but as I can actually see the point of double charging in these places, I happily paid up and we made out way up the hill into the park.
After a few kilometres we came across a couple of ponds with butterflies along the edge doing their mud-puddling thing. In our previous macro outings we have been lucky to see a single butterfly, but here were hundreds sitting on the ground and sucking up the mud.
It was a dizzying sight and for a while I just enjoyed being next to them, before grabbing my camera and trying to get some shots. I was so absorbed that it was a while before I noticed my wife had returned to the car and was standing on the running board nervously looking around.
I can’t say. I’m scared, I want to leave here.
I then launched into a diatribe about we had hardly penetrated the park, how there was nothing here to be scared of, how visitors often set off for long treks into the forest and they were OK; while thinking that this was going to be a difficult trip.
In the event, she seemed perfectly comfortable for the rest of our time in the park and I could not understand why she had been so jumpy at that particular location.
And then on the way home on our second day we were sat in the back of a pick-up with the owner of the resort. As we passed the ponds we had visited on the first day he announced:
You see a lot of tigers here.
Yes, they come here to drink. I have seen them myself.
Were you scared?
Of course. But the tiger was scared too, and I was mainly scared that I wouldn’t get a photo.
She who must be obeyed gave me one of her “I told you so” looks.
I asked her later how she had known.
How did you know that there might be tigers there?
I saw the tracks coming out of the woods to the ponds, looked like tiger paws.
Why didn’t you say.
In my culture we believe that if you say the word “tiger”, then one will show up. Best not to say anything.
So if a tiger had come out of the woods, then you could have shouted “tiger” just before I was torn to shreds?
Well, that’s a comfort.
Back at the resort after our unknowing visit to the tiger ponds, we found Nik and his lady already arrived, but no sign of the reservations for us that I had made by email and confirmed by phone. Luckily they still had rooms and we were soon tucking into some excellent food before settling down for a good night’s sleep before a full day in the park starting at 0500 the following morning. But that’s another post.