Wat Ounalom Monastery

I was in Cambodia last month just to get out of Thailand for a bit. I generally try and disappear from Thailand periodically to have a holiday from my holiday as I call it. It’s not every person that can say they wake up to a view of the Gulf of Thailand as their daily view.

During my time in Phnom Penh this time it pissed down daily. We are talking torrential rains for several hours. When it wasn’t doing that it was threatening. The other joy was it was 1000 Degrees pick it in Celsius or Fahrenheit doesn’t matter. It was hot. I’m used to a breeze coming off the Gulf of Thailand so no breeze sucked.

Anyways, I saw Wat Ounalom on a previous visit to the city and this was the first chance I got to stop in. It also helped it wasn’t going to piss down immediately, of course, it was my last day in the country so go figure.

I didn’t bring any of the bigger cameras. Instead, I just used my trusty Sony RX100iii and it did what it handled the photos well.

For those wondering why the long absence. Part of it has been my laziness to edit. It’s tedious at times. The other issue is I switched from Mac to PC which is a bit of a learning curve remembering how to use a Windows keyboard for Windows again versus Mac.

If you did visit and ended up on some Japanese language page, well the site was hacked. Luckily in my previous life, I was an IT Director so with some Google searches I took control of the site and resolved the issue. Then it was a matter of watching to see who was trying to hack me again. Then shut them down on a permanent basis. That took a few weeks.

So my goal is a few photos a few times a week as I am sitting on one giant backlog of images.

Enjoy.

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Spirit Tree

This one is from Thailand that I shot a few years ago. Was a spirit tree along the beach.

This is not an uncommon sight in Thailand. There are lots of trees like this with offerings around it. They are called spirit trees because the Thais believe a local spirit lives in the tree and to keep it happy small offerings are made to it.

Many people mistake Buddhism is tied back to the Dali Lama. Far from it. There are many sects of Buddhism and they all have a Grand Patriarch. There are a few sects within Thailand itself. While the local monks may not go with the spirit tree stuff the typical Thai does. You will see offerings made to rocks and trees all over the place. You will also see small houses in front of most place along within restaurants. These are spirit houses to keep the people that lived there before happy. It goes back to animist beliefs from however long ago. Thai’s also have a deep connection with the Hindu faith as well. You will see lots of Ganesh status floating around and getting offerings as well. It’s just part and parcel of being in Thailand.

This is a HDR image but it doesn’t look it. I brought the image into Aurora 2017 and then just played with sliders until happy. Then back into Photoshop for some dodging and burning and called it done.

Enjoy.

Spirit Tree

 

Golden Idols

This was taken at Wat Nong Yai in Thailand. The same place as Stupa Steps was taken. These two were tucked under a small awning providing shade near the stupa.

For the uninitiated the statue on the right is Buddha. The one on the left is Ch’i-t’zu who was a Chinese monk. It gets complex and if you want to read about it follow this link.

In Thai Buddhism you will see all sorts of stuff mixed in. It’s not at all like the Tibetan Buddhism that most people seem to know. In Thai Buddhism you will see Hindu gods, animist beliefs, and spiritualism all mixed in. You get used to it after a bit and it seems to work for the average Thai person. Personally I think it makes things interesting.

It’s fairly obvious that this is a HDR image. Just blended three images together and went with the outcome. I did bring down the tones a bit in this one as it was a bit too nuclear with the golds. Still, with these type of images the HDR works best when it’s bold and bright. Buddhist temples in Thailand are a treat for the senses with all the decoration and gold.

With the conversion to HDR finished I went to work in Photoshop. Mainly around doing local dodge and burn adjustments. You sometimes have to play with various areas to get features to work. Once I had that it was save and call it a day.

Enjoy.

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Thai Worship – Part II

I finish up the Thai Worship series today. There is a mix of Thai Buddha’s and Chinese gods. There is a strong Chinese influence in Thailand. You will usually see Chinese gods and goddess’s mixed in with the usual Buddha’s and Hindi gods. Thailand is a rather confusing place for Buddhism if you don’t understand the basics of Buddhism and how it evolved out of India and how there is a large Chinese-Thai population. It works on some levels for Thais so as an outsider looking in it if makes them happy I roll with it.

These were shot like the pervious series on either my Sony RX100M3 or my A7R. Just normal processing and no fancy layers and masks.

Enjoy.

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Chaimongkol Pagoda Shrine

I could make it sound like I really know what I am talking about when I named this image but the reality is I blew one of the source images to 100% and read the blue sign. So I cheated.

I actually wasn’t planning on doing a Thailand image today. In fact, I had full intentions of showing stuff I shot in the fall. I had shot some cool leaf stuff and was looking forward to taking a break from the Thailand stuff. It turns out I don’t have any of those images. I usually don’t dump my memory cards after I shoot personal stuff. This is done on purpose because I don’t really want to look at the images because I still have some emotional attachment to them. It will skew your curation process. I could just dump the images and not bother looking at them but I’m lazy to a fault at times.

So with me having to get my condo ready for sale and me leaving for 7 weeks I never really thought about it so I formatted cards as needed. You can guess what happened. I formatted the card holding the fall leaves. Worse part is I can’t even attempt a recovery because I have no idea what card it was and I have a LOT of memory cards. I pick them up when they are on sale in bulk so it would be finding a needle in a haystack.

Live and learn. I dumped the stuff I shot this week right after I figured out I lost all my fall foliage stuff.

Moving on.

For inquiring minds this was not a HDR image. It was shot on my Sony RX100M3 and I composted 4 images together using Aurora HDR then masked in layers in Aurora to get a base image to work off of. I spent a lot of time on the sky to get all the noise out of it. Nothing says fun like looking at an image at 100% while taking a masking brush to small chunks of the image as you smooth out the sky. I also bumped the clarity a bit to bring out the details of the shrine. Then I brought it into Photoshop for some tweaks and the clean up the sky a bit more.

A very easy trick to remove noise out of the sky if you only have it in small areas is take the lasso tool then go to Filters/Blur/Gaussian Blur then select a radius that works. You really should not have to go above 5. This will only affect the areas within the lasso and you are good to go.

Remember to dump your memory cards and enjoy!

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Buddha and The Sala

I have no idea what the name of this temple complex is called. Most of us just call it Big Buddha which is located in Pratumnak Hill. This day I took my friend up there as he had never seen it even though he lives in Thailand. It’s just in his normal area and we were but a short bike ride away so it seemed like a pleasant way to pass the time before we parted ways for the day.

The Buddha is evident but the sala isn’t something you would know normally but its the building. I have shown a few in various shots but never really explained them. They are areas of worship where you can walk in and make offerings to a Buddha or hear a monk recite the Dharma and make an offering to the monk and receive a blessing. Depends on if a monk is present or not.

Thailand being well; Thailand you will notice the the right the small stand with lettering in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Thai and likely some English is the amulet vendor. You can buy some blessed amulets. I will tell you from personal experience from said vendor, that gold isn’t what you call the highest quality Thai gold. It has a tendency to turn green. You have been warned.

Editing was done while listening to Motorhead and the gravel voiced Lemmy who died on 12/26. He was Lemmy and he played rock n’ roll. Go listen to him.

Enjoy.

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Guardians At The Gate

Why are there two elephants guarding the entrance to this temple complex? Well, my quick search turned up the fact that Buddha’s mother was unable to have a child until she dreamed of a white elephant entering her. So I can see why it’s important to Buddhism. You also need to understand that Buddhism comes from India where the elephant is revered because of Ganesh. Thai Buddhism draws heavily on Hinduism. It’s not uncommon to see lots of Hindu elements in Thailand and within Thai temples.

I wish I paid attention to the temple names I went to. This is the one I wound up at after I crashed my bike being chased by a pack of dogs. It was very chill and I enjoyed just having the place to myself. If you are ever in Thailand skip the tourist temples and hit the local spots. They are equally and splendid and without the usual tourists showing up or an “admission fee”. If you like there are donation boxes all over temple grounds, feel free to drop what you wish in the box.

Enjoy.

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From The Dragon’s Mouth

This was at the cool little temple complex I found while traveling about here in Thailand. I have no idea what its supposed to represent but its not often you walk into a temple and see a small lake with a dragon statue in it.

To get this shot I had to wait for a young couple to finish making merit. The lady was releasing turtles into the water, setting them free hence, the making of merit because you are protecting life. Now the fact remains that someone will go back into the small lake and recapture the turtles for resale at a later date remains open to debate but this is Thailand after all.

If you haven’t figured it out, this is a HDR image. I have gotten better with using Aurora over the last few days and have tended to leave the stock conversion instead of filters then using various sliders to adjust the image to where I want it. Even started using layers within it to get various features I like. Still bring it into Photoshop and do a few things there. I like to run Macphun’s Intensify CK just to see if I can bring a little bit more out then mask it back into where I want it.

Enjoy.

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Personal Buddha

I had Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus stuck in my head while I was doing these images. It’s one of the most covered songs ever. Even Johnny Cash covered it on one of American Recording albums.

For those of you that are practicing Buddhist’s I recognize that one of these is not Buddha. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Buddhism here is a hint, Buddha was not a fat, happy guy. I just liked the image.

This week will be a Disney week as I finally got off my ass and edited all the images. So it will be an around the world trip by the end. These images represent nothing that is country specific but were shot in “China”. The rest will be very country specific and very obvious. You will also get to see Florida’s weather in all its glory as the light shifted on me throughout the day.

Enjoy.

Personal Buddha

Personal Buddha

Personal Buddha

Personal Buddha

 

Face of a Bodhisattva

Went to the Freer and Sackler Galleries which are apart of the Smithsonian Institute to shoot their Asian collection.  The lighting was challenging to say the least and I added an additional challenge, all manual focus adapted lenses.  So the newest lens used was like 25 years old with some images being shot on 50+ year old lenses.  So it was a real adventure.  I just did this one first because it jumped out at me.  While not perfect its not bad considering I was using ISO 2000 to keep shutter speeds up and shooting wide open on the various lenses used.  One of the things I noticed is that these lenses are dead sharp in the center but start to fade on the corners when used wide open but with gallery lighting being what it was to stop damaging the various pieces no other choice.  More to follow when I go through them.

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