Digging In The Vault #2 – Mosaic Monsters

One of my favorite shots from the Grand Palace in Bangkok was the mosaic tile monsters.  I’d call it a dragon, but do dragons have large fins on their heads?  I remain confused.

Mosaic Dragon at the Grand Palace in Bangkok

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The colors and artwork is amazing.  I should have stopped down a bit though – the depth of field at this angle is a little lacking, I think, but the focus on its face might make me reconsider.  I tried to work this shot into a masthead for the blog for a while, but the aspect ratio is all wrong so it never happened.  What do you think?

On an unrelated and nerdy note (stop reading here if those words made your eyes glaze over), I’ve had some issues with the color management on my monitor for a while.  What I was seeing in Photoshop wasn’t what was visible on the web, but I couldn’t sort it out so I just let it be.  Not anymore.  Finally figured it out and from here on out things should look better.  If I have enough time I might go back and fix some of the older ones – if things suddenly look better, that’s why.

If this was your walkway, you'd be home already

Koh Kret Walkway

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Just upriver from central Bangkok (an incredibly busy, smoggy, urban city) is a small island in the bend of the Chao Phraya River called Koh Kret (a small, rural non-city). Still populated largely by the ethnic Mon people, the main activities seem to be shilling their traditional pottery (and dessert, so I hear) to tourists. Once you get off the main drag on the elevated concrete walkway that rings the island, things get distinctly more agricultural and rural. Although the pathway is well built, everything strapped to it is… otherwise constructed. This is the path up to a typical house. I don’t know about you, but personally it looks a little rickety. Maybe that’s just me. In any case, it’s a nice little break from Bangkok, and at forced march speeds, you can walk the whole 5+ kilometers in just over an hour. Hopefully before your hired Long-Tail boat gets pissed at you and leaves.

Making bowls for Monk’s Alms

Traditional Buddhist Monk Bowl

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Buddhist monks in Thailand traditionally beg for their food using a special handmade bowl. Like most things, now there are cheap versions from China, but in the alleys of Soi Ban Baat, the last of three villages founded in the time of Rama I still does things the old fashioned way. The picture above is of the tools used in one of the final steps. The bowls are created of 8 pieces of steel (symbolizing the 8-fold path and all that) that are then soldered together with copper and hammered into shape. The finished bowls are beautiful and have a great tone when struck with something hard. The creation process may or may not involve the use of cats. Either way, it’s a great diversion when you have an extra hour or two in Banglumphu. And you can walk there from the Koh Sahn area – don’t let the irate security guards at Chabad tell you otherwise.

Wat Phra Kaew Reflection

Wat Phra Kaeo Reflection

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One more picture from Wat Phra Kaew. Might be the last, but no promises. This shot is a reflection of the Royal Pantheon (Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn, if my handout is to be believed) in one of the lilypad and water-filled planters around the site. I often forget that some of the best shots aren’t directly at the subject. Reflections sometimes bring a nice change in viewpoint.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography

Wat Phra Kaew HDRI’m sure you’ve seen HDR photography before – usually in that whacky surreal style that looks more cartoon than photograph.  HDR (or High Dynamic Range) photography can also be used in a much more subtle way to solve on of the biggest problems photographers have – the fact that your camera can’t capture the range of light and shadow that your eyes can in one shot.  The dynamic range (from brightest to darkest area) that a camera can handle per picture is significantly less than you can see, but with HDR photography, you can take several pictures that capture different elements of the same image and put them together later.  Hit the jump for more info.

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Golden Tower Of Wat Phra Kaew

Golden Chedi of Wat Phra Kaew

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Bangkok is a lot of things. Most of those things are hot, humid, moist, and smoggy, but there is a lot of good mixed in there. Phad Thai from street vendors ranks highly, and so do the huge number of Wats or Buddhist temples. The centerpiece of the city must be Wat Phra Kaew, next to the Grand Palace. This is a shot of the amazing golden Chedi. The jade Buddah housed in another building may hold more religious significance, but this is what I loved. More pictures to come, of course.