She’s got Bette Davis eyes

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February 18th, 2017|8 Comments

Visa problems

My continuing sojourn in this fine country requires that I extend my visa on a yearly basis. It is true that those who don’t know me would, upon seeing my photo, place my age in the “recently left school” category; but surprisingly I am eligible for an extension based on retirement.

The requirements for this are quite simple: fill in a form, provide a photo (highlighting your apparent youth), provide copies of everything you can lay your hands on, and prove that you are capable of supporting yourself financially.The latter can be met with either proof of income or cash in the bank. The proof of income option used to require an expensive letter from the British Consul in Pattaya; but as the UK government no longer supports such a position (cost cutting, need more money for MP’s portraits), it would mean a tedious trip to the embassy in Bangkok to obtain a standard letter which confirms what I already have confirmed on a piece of paper from my former employer, but which immigration will not accept. As Gandhi said “fuck that for a game of soldiers”.

So instead I went for the cash in the bank option and presented Bangkok Bank with a million baht some four years ago. In return they give a modicum of interest, a credit card with a credit limit of 500k and an annual letter confirming the balance on the account which I present to immigration with a smile and a request for another stamp in my passport.

This week I made my usual pilgrimage to Bangkok Bank and requested the letter. Twenty minutes later and 100 baht lighter, I was leaving the bank with the letter in my hand. Two minutes later I was back in the bank, waving the letter with some indignation because it showed a balance of only half a million baht.

“It’s a new rule” said the gloating clerk. That’s your available funds, the other half million are securing the credit card. Look, it’s noted on the bottom of the letter”.
And on close inspection, indeed it was, in size 6 script using a font called “faded ignominy”.
“For the last three years you have shown the full balance” I protested.
“New rule”.
“I don’t think immigration will accept this. I need at least 800,000 baht in the account”.
“New rule. Another customer had no problem” said in a voice that suggested I just take my letter and leave.

So I did, and I went to immigration and presented the letter along with my other papers. Sure enough, they would not accept it. Problem.

Luckily, Spike’s investments, while mainly tied up in camera gear, also includes 500k in a TMB deposit account. So I needed a letter for that. She who must be obeyed rang the branch nearest to immigration (about a kilometre away) and confirmed they could provide said letter; and after a hurried lunch I made my way there. Parked as close as I could and then scurried to the branch where eventually I obtained the necessary bit of paper (two hundred baht). Giving up on the car, I walked all the way down to the immigration office and arrived at 15:20 hoping they were still accepting new applications…

It was then that I noticed that the TMB passbook had not been updated to the latest date, the last entry being in March 2016; this is spite of the fact that I had heard the manager telling the bank clerk to update the book. Problem. Giving up on any chance of submitting my forms on that day, I trudged back up to the bank and showed the clerk the passbook.

“It has not been updated, immigration will not accept it”.
“They should, this is an account that only get updated once a year”
“Can you update it to show today’s balance?”
“Cannot”.
“Can I put 1,000 baht in the account so it shows today’s balance?”
“Cannot. Minimum deposit is 10,000 baht. Tell you what, I will re-write the letter and put in specific text to tell immigration that this is how the passbook works.”

So she did, and she copied the last page and stamped it and dated it. So well done TMB, really trying to help.

It was almost 1600 and I was sure I was too later, but I huffed and sweated my way back down to immigration where I found an almost empty office and someone to accept my papers.

I submitted my Bangkok Bank and TMB letters and….

… well, it would be a better story if they again rejected them, but this time my submission was accepted and now I have my passport stamped for another year.

Now I am off to Bangkok Bank to take half a million out of the account (still leaving enough for a reasonable credit card splurge), and I will give the money to TMB as a thank you for making an effort. Also, a shout out to Pattaya Immigration for being efficient and friendly, in spite of the tide of unwashed and improperly dressed rabble that descend on them each day (not me, obviously, I wear national dress and smell of cloves).

February 17th, 2017|6 Comments

Bad moon rising

Driving down the road on Saturday evening and there was a beautiful orange moon in the sky. That would look good next to a temple, I thought.

So the next night I headed for my favourite temple complex and found an illuminated spire. I had my 40-150mm lens, and an anxious wife who was convinced we would, at the minimum, be beaten up and robbed in the dark car park. Mr. Google advised me of the moon rise time and direction, so I waited for it to appear over the trees and my wife waited for a squad of bandits to emerge from the darkness.

The moon appeared (the bandits didn’t). It was not as close to the temple as I would have liked, and my choice of “Low” ISO on the camera contributed to a washed out moon. Frankly, not good enough.

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Last tight we went back. The wife had concealed weapons (probably), and I had the extender on the lens and a decent exposure setup after the lessons of the previous evening. After some waiting, accompanied by grumbling from inside the car (it’s not coming, let’s go home, an assault is imminent, code red), the moon popped up in an almost perfect position next to the temple.

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Got the shots, she who must be obeyed stood down from high alert, and we returned home. Would look even better with a 300mm lens…

February 14th, 2017|2 Comments

Hats

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February 14th, 2017|0 Comments

Understanding the shutter options on the E-M1 II

The E-M1 II is a very powerful camera with many options; but those related to the shutter are not that easy to understand, thanks to some non-intuitive labelling by Olympus. High speed, low speed, electronic shutter, mechanical shutter, anti-shock; what’s it all about? Read on:

The shutter can do one of two things when you fully press it. It can take a single shot, or it can take multiple (“sequential”) shots and continue to do so until you lift the shutter. Multiple shots can be either taken at Low speed or High speed, and there is an important difference between the two:

Low speed: Focus, exposure and white balance are recalculated for each shot in the sequence.
High speed: Focus, exposure and white balance are calculated for the first shot in the sequence only. All subsequent shots will use the initial readings.

So if you are shooting someone running towards you and you use High speed sequential, the first shot will be in focus, but the rest will be out of focus because focus has been set at the original position. Use Low speed instead.

How your camera will behave in these various modes will also be influenced by what focus option you have set.
S-AF (or MF): Focus is set once on depressing the shutter.
C-AF Focus is continually being recalculated based on the focus point selected.
C-AF+TR Focus point is continually being recalculated and will follow the subject initially selected by the focus point (considered same as C-AF in examples below).

Some examples of when you might use various shutter/focus combinations:

Single shutter, S-AF – Your standard shooting mode for most subjects. Point your camera at something, take a shot, upload it to Facebook, bore your friends.
Single shutter, C-AF – You annoying nephew is walking around and you want to get a shot of him. C-AF will keep him in focus until you decide to press the shutter.
Low speed shutter, C-AF – The standard for sports shooting. Focus is being taken on all the shots, and plenty of images are being captured from which you can choose the decisive moment.
High speed shutter, S-AF – Want to capture balloons being burst? Focus on the unsuspecting balloon and let loose with high speed sequential shooting (Pro Capture helps with this).
High speed shutter, C-AF – You what? You have set continuous auto focus, but high speed sequential only focuses the first frame, so C-AF won’t work for the other 145 shots in the sequence. Oops. The only time you might use this combination is when you have a moving subject that you want to track with C-AF, and when he/she/it stops, you want to let loose with high speed sequential. No, I can’t think of a realistic scenario either.

So, having hopefully defined how the shutter and focus work together, let’s go back to the shutter options and look at them in more detail.

Set on the Super Control Panel, using this option will take a single shot:

So far, so good.

Then, we find this option:

The little diamond shape indicates anti-shock, whereby there is a slight delay before the shutter is opened, intended to eliminate a shaky image at low shutter speeds caused by the shutter slapping against the camera body. You can set the delay in menu option 2/Anti-Shock

Next up, and continuing the deck of cards theme, we have a heart (the clubs and spades symbols will no doubt appear on a future model…):

This arcane symbol is used to denote use of the near-silent, electronic shutter. Not exactly obvious; but just remember that if you have a heart symbol you will be using electronic shutter; no heart symbol and you will be using the traditional mechanical shutter.

Time to move onto sequential shutter.

This one is using the mechanical shutter (no heart) at Low Speed so every frame is being checked for focus and exposure:

The little diamond tells us that each frame will also be preceded by the specified anti-shock delay.

And finally we have the heart symbol denoting that electronic shutter will be used. Again, every frame is being checked for focus and exposure:

Note that there is no option to use anti-shock with the electronic shutter. This is not because there is no room for both the heart and diamond symbols on the display, but because there is no potential shutter shock with an electronic shutter.

For those that enjoy machine gun noises, here is the setting for high speed mechanical shutter. Remember, focus is only being taken on the first image. Note also that I have combined it with C-AF focus. Wrong!:

And for those who like to silently fill their memory card, high speed electronic:

Whether you choose mechanical or electronic shutter doesn’t affect the basic shutter/focus combinations listed earlier. Mechanical is slower and noisier, electronic is quiet and gives you a shitload of images. There are some potential issues with electronic shutter but I have never had any problems and now use it all the time; up to you what you choose.

What does Low and High really mean in terms of number of images? It’s up to you. Head over to menu C1 and select the speeds you would prefer for both options.

Maximum for Low speed Mechanical is 10fps
Maximum for Low speed Electronic is 18fps
Maximum for High speed Mechanical is 15fps
Maximum for High speed Electronic is 60fps

To keep things (relatively) simple, I have not included some options; but hopefully the above will help clarify some of the confusion around the use of shutter options. If not, please ask in the comments.

February 13th, 2017|14 Comments

Short lens, fast horse

Did a bit of polo shooting yesterday. Just for fun I used the Nocticron, which at 42.5mm is a little short for action shooting large horses at speed. But when it works, it is worth it.

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February 11th, 2017|3 Comments

A perfect description

“Ting tong” is Thai slang for someone who is inept, crazy, quirky and similar words. Can be viewed as disrespectful, but OK to use with close friends as a joke.

So, with that out of the way, last night I showed she who must be obeyed a little video of Donald Trump, stood behind a podium, waving his tiny hands, and barking the usual nonsense. She watched it, pondered for a short while and then proclaimed “he’s a ting tong Hitler!”

A perfect description, and one that will be used in future to describe POTUS in our house.

February 10th, 2017|4 Comments

Snip!

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February 7th, 2017|0 Comments

Letting it all hang out

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February 7th, 2017|0 Comments

Pattaya Arts Festival

Pattaya is better known for tarts than arts, so kudos to whoever for coming up with the idea for an arts festival. The emphasis was on painting, and the emphasis on the emphasis was spray painted graffiti; but there was plenty to look at, once you had battled through the usual stalls selling assorted tat.

A side road had had walls painted white, and then graffiti artists of various nationalities were let loose:

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On Beach Road there were large panels erected on which spray paint was again the main medium, but with some more traditional methods also being used:

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There was a live band, food trucks, and some strange creations on the beach:

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Given all the crafts practised in Thailand, it would have been good to see more variety; but it was an enjoyable stroll down the beach on a Saturday afternoon. More today if you are interested, starting from 1600.

February 5th, 2017|0 Comments