Author Archives: BEP_Admin

The Wedding Factory

Many local photographers use the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 as a backdrop to their wedding photos. This busy Saturday morning had at least 7 photographers shooting around the area.

Wedding photography at the Cathedral

Wedding photography at the Cathedral

A hip couple goes for something a bit different

A hip couple goes for something a bit different

Sometimes prime real estate can get a bit busy.

Pick a spot and hold your ground

Pick a spot and hold your ground

Walking to the next spot

Walking to the next spot

In the thick of it all, it’s sometimes hard to forget it’s about two people in love. Then you take the shot below and you remember.

Awwww

Congratulations

 

 

 

 

Posted in Photography, Vietnam Tagged , , , , , , |

Spiders in Skuon

Crickets and spiders sold in Skun

Crickets and spiders sold in Skuon

If any one has visited Phnom Penh and visited the riverside, you are going to the a bunch of deep fried creepy crawlies ready for consumption. One of the notable bugs that you will see are deep fried spiders. One of the things you have to try when you are in Cambodia is to try some of these types of street food. In all honesty, once is enough. Granted the legs are crunchy and just taste like oil, it’s the body that really put me off. Just make sure you have something to drink (preferably an Anchor smooth beer) to wash down the taste.

I’ve always been intrigued on how they were caught and when we were doing the story for  the Crickets in Kompong Thom trip, I talked to our fixer and made a detour to Skuon.

The lady of the spider hunting house

The lady of the spider hunting house

When we arrived, our fixer brought us to this ladies house. She told me that they haven’t hunted in a while since it wasn’t the season but offered (for a few dollars) to get her son to catch one for us.

Off to catch some spiders

Off to catch some spiders

We agreed and what follows is our quest to catch a spider.

A spider hole

A spider hole

After five minutes of walking in the forest, we came across a hole. Her son then took a shovel and dug about 6 inches into the hole.

Getting the tarantula out

Getting the tarantula out

Her son’s friend came along and showed us how to get the spider out. They took two small branches and slowly strummed the web. They also made a chirping sound while doing this.

The spider comes out. Look at those fangs!

The spider comes out. Look at those fangs!

About a minute of probing and chirping, the spider came out. When the spider showed enough of itself, the lady’s son grabbed the spider. It was really impressive to watch.

Got the spider

Got the spider

We then headed back to the village.

Not quite finished

Not quite finished

I thought we were done but she said that the spider needed to be de-fanged as the fangs aren’t edible. Right before I was about to ask her about de-fanging the spider, she started to do it.

With her bare hands.

Yowza. Defanging a spider with your hands.

Yowza. Defanging a spider with your hands.

It was really quick and I was lucky to get this image. Just after I asked if she had ever been bitten. She laughed and said lots of times. She just gets dizzy for a bit and moves on.

A defanged spider

One fang to go

She put down the semi defanged spider to let me take a photo. It really doesn’t look pretty. She asked if I wanted to eat it. I declined. She then grabbed it and tossed it into a fire. I asked her why she didn’t want to eat the spider and she simply said that she hates the taste of them. I kinda agree with her.

Fried Spider Appetizer at Romdeng

Fried Spider Appetizer at Romdeng

 

 

Posted in Cambodia, Food Tagged , , , , , , |

Crickets in Kompong Thom

Came across some old images from a story that never ran. So here you go:
Cricket farming in  Kompong Thom

Traffic flies by the cricket traps

Traffic flies by the cricket traps

On the National Road 6 from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh about 40 kilometers from Kompong Thom sits an area that is famous for it’s crickets. The road is dotted with blue flourescent lights that attract the crickets.

Mrs. Chanta sits next to the blue fluoro lights

Mrs. Chanta sits next to the blue fluoro lights

Chanta, 33, starts work every morning at 4:00am as a cricket harvester. She makes 5 stops every morning. She is a farmer and works as a harvester on the side for extra income.

Cricket harvesting in the early morning

Cricket harvesting in the early morning

The cricket traps work as such: The crickets are attracted to the blue fluoro lights. When they jump to get closer to the light, they hit a plastic sheet and fall into a cache of water.

Sorting out the harvest

Sorting out the harvest

They can catch over 4 kilos of crickets at each farm they visit. They do an initial weighing in the dark and pay the farmer 10,000 riel ($2.50 USD) per kilo.

Cleaning the crickets

Cleaning the crickets

At Chanta’s house, the bugs are cleaned in water before sorting.

PIcking through the various sizes of crickets

PIcking through the various sizes of crickets

The crickets are sorted by weight and size. Other bugs that are in the catch are separated and sold separately. Once everything is sorted, Chanta goes to the market.

Chanta finds a buyer

Chanta sells some crickets while on the phone to a vendor in Phnom Penh.Some of the buyers are from Kompong Thom but the majority of her catch goes to Phnom Penh.

Weighing the crickets

Weighing the crickets

Chanta will sell the crickets for 20,000 (USD $5.00) Riel per kilo.

Calculating the morning's harvest

Calculating the morning’s harvest

Chanta heads back home by noon

Chanta heads back home by noon

Once she is done selling her crickets, Chanta and her husband head back home with some extra shopping.

Posted in Cambodia, Food Tagged , , , , |

Quan Mama Lan

Went to Thao Dien to check out a new restaurant that my wife saw a review for in the Word magazine. Quan Mama Lan’s is a pretty chilled out place with pretty decent Hanoi food and cheap to boot. This dish was a fantastic little tidbit for a whopping 35,000VND ($1.80). Not bad huh?

Bun Dau Thit Ba Chi at Quan Mama Lan

Bun Dau Thit Ba Chi at Quan Mama Lan

Posted in Food Tagged , , , |

Breaking Bad

One negative aspect of living in Southeast Asia is that you tend to miss out on certain pop-culture elements from your home country. I remember when I came back from living in Cambodia in 2005 after being away from Orange County, California for a couple of years and having my sisters tell me that Orange County was now cool.

Luckily, the world is a smaller place thanks to the internet. Which brings me to my obsession with AMC’s Breaking Bad.  Crazy wide camera angles, ultra saturated colors, time-lapse makes it one of the most visually stunning TV shows out right now. I have linked a couple of greats interview with Michael Slovis, who is the Director of Photography, here and here.

One aspect of my obsession is constantly checking out websites on new information on the exploits of Walter and Jesse. Through these constant page clicks, I discovered the amazing photography of Frank Ockenfels, who has been the official promotional photographer for Season 5. His body of work is stunning and he is responsible for some of the most stunning publicity shots I have seen.

It’s not only his knowledge of photography that makes him an amazing photographer but how he manages to capture the moment that makes his images so great. So I end with another Breaking Bad image that makes inspires me in it’s simplicity and power.

All photos taken by Frank Ockenfels.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

The few and far between

Times are few and far between when I get to shoot portraits of a person I really admire. Even rarer when I have full rein on creativity and lighting the scene. A couple months ago, I had one of those rare chances with Kosal Khiev. I first met him on the shoot of My Asian Americana and was moved by his energy and drive. A few weeks later, I had a chance to interview him with Princess Soma Norodom on her nightly radio show at PUC and was once again moved by him and his constant drive to better himself and his art.

We got to talking after and conspired to have a photo session in the near future. These photos are the result of the photo session.

One main element I wanted was an urban feel with the background. So we ended up shooting in an alleyway where I used to live. Another element I wanted in the shot was his ever present notebook which he is constantly writing in. The only problem is that it is quite narrow (about 10 feet wide) and was very busy with foot and motorbike traffic.

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

Lighting is a brollied 580ex as the fill light just a bit high and to my right. Two Viv 283’s with stofens are placed about 10 feet to the left and right of Kosal just slightly touching the wall at 45 degree angles. Not the most efficient use of light but it gave a slight rim light to him and it kept them out of the way of passing motorbikes! I wanted to accentuate his tattoos and the wall in the background so there was some manipulation there. I also brightened his brow a bit and turned the tonal contrast just a bit up for the great textures on his face and shirt. In all honesty, I would have liked to have had a reflector to push the light up on his face but sometimes, you make do with what you can.

Kosal Khiev against the wall

Kosal Khiev against the wall

Can I tell you that he is a pretty amazing subject to work with? I moved the Viv 283 on his left side a bit tighter and lower to him, but kept the rest of the  lighting the same but didn’t notice that  I stupidly blew out the words in the notebook. Luckily, I always shoot in RAW so I was able to save the detail in the notebook and it makes for a great dimension to the image.

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

A bit of a variation to the image above, the pose makes for a striking image. I wanted to cool down the background on this file and the notebook, so some layer masks later, we got this image!

Kosal and his notebook

Kosal and his notebook

In this image you can see how tight the alleyway is. Not too much room to work with. Once again, there is a brollied 580ex to my right and two Viv 283’s directly onto the walls to his left and right. Usually you use strip lights or a grid to create these lovely rim lights but bouncing off the walls made for a great substitute!

Hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I had taking them!

Posted in portrait Tagged , , , , , , , |

Messing with Nik Software

My wife and I currently on holiday in the UK and kicking back in our great rented flat in Brixton via AirBnB. In all honesty, I don’t know why anyone else doesn’t use this to travel. A huge living area, full-service kitchen and a big bedroom all within walking distance to the Tube for under $100 USD.

Fantastic.

Also, during the trip, I have been playing with the fantastic Nik Software Suite. Mainly HDR Efx Pro.

What I like about the HDR conversion using the Nik Software Suite is the amount of control given. What I don’t like about HDR iamges is that they look overly processed and don’t look realistic. Take for example, an image of the Ludlow Brewing Company truck I took while on the Ale Trail. A combination of 3 exposures bracketed at -2 and +2 using the Default setting.

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Default setting

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Default setting

Nicely balanced but I would like a bit more oomph in the sky so I decided to push it a bit by using the Strong setting.

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Strong setting

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Strong setting

Looks good but you can see a bit of haloing around the truck which is a problem with HDR photos. Now altered with the Realistic setting.

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Realistic setting

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Realistic setting

Now that’s what I want! The sky definitely pops and the haloing is controlled.

Well, that’s it. Am off to the largest Mall in Europe.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Escape Magazine article

I have a new article up on Escape magazine for their City Reporter in their July 2011 edition. Check out the article below.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

The Inflatable Softbox

I went out today to buy some new Eneloops at a camera shop located close to the Central Market. I have bought various camera related gear at the shop over the past 2 years and am impressed with some of the KIRF items that they stock.
While checking out the owners White “Macbook Air”, she dropped the “Inflatable Softbox” in front of me.

“Only 2 dollar”

She also sells softboxes for $10 that fit directly on an attached speedlite but after trying it out in the shop, I just wasn’t impressed. But for $2 dollars?

Why not.

So I brought it home and did some tests to see if the inflatable softbox would be the next piece in the strobist light kit.

The deflated inflatable softbox

The deflated inflatable softbox

The deflated inflatable softbox

The deflated inflatable softbox

As you can see, it is pretty small and portable. I actually put it in the side pocket of my cargo shorts for the moto ride home!

Now inflated.

The inflatable softbox inflated

The inflatable softbox inflated

When inflated, it goes to about 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and about 7 inches deep. You can see the blowhole and the nylon drawstrings that keep the the softbox onto the speedlite.

So onto the pics!

I didn’t have my usual model around as she is at work so I had to use my cat Sam who loves to sleep on my product table.

First shot is just a Viv 283 bare bulbed.

Bare bulbed flash

Bare bulbed flash

Pretty harsh light.

Second shot is the Viv 283 with the inflatable softbox.

With the inflatable softbox

With the inflatable softbox

A bit softer but not too much. At least there is some serious light fall off at the corner.

Third shot was with a cheap Chinese diffuser bought from you know where.

Diffuser

Diffuser

Definitely a bit softer with more even lighting. Also, the diffuser takes the exposure down a stop.

Last shot was with the cheap Chinese diffuser and the inflatable softbox on top of it.

Diffuser with Inflatable Softbox

Diffuser with Inflatable Softbox

The fall off at the corner isn’t that bad and the light is a bit softer but still not anything like a proper softbox.

Question is whether I would ever use it?

Probably not as the light that it produces is still a bit harsh for my needs but who knows? It doesn’t take up too much space in the camera bag and used in combination with the diffuser, can be another useful tool in the kit.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , |

Smelling the roses

In the rush of being a freelance photographer, it’s hard to stop and smell the roses. Deadlines, meetings, research, pitches, more meetings keep me away from shooting for myself. Kinda like recharging the creative batteries so its nice to actually get a chance to go out and shoot just for myself.

I had a chance to do this on Sunday where I took a photography class out to Olympic stadium for a practical workshop. It was a great experience as the students were great and really took to finding their own style of photography.

I have been going to the Olympic Stadium over the years and I find it to be my favorite spot to shoot in the city. It’s a lively place no matter what time of the day.

A couple of images from the day:

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Painting the steps at Olympic Stadium

Painting the steps at Olympic Stadium

Last one is a portrait of a football spectator that I previously snapped 5 years ago.

Portrait taken 5 years ago

Portrait taken 5 years ago

Portrait of a football fan at Olympic Stadium in 2011

Portrait of a football fan at Olympic Stadium in 2011

He was very surprised that I remembered him from 5 years ago. I told him that it was very easy to remember someone as handsome as him. He just smiled and then slapped me on the shoulder.

Nice one.

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