26 May 2014

Following the railtracks, I

Ramkhamhaeng Airport Link to Makkasan Airport Link (4 km)

I'm constantly looking for new locations to roam around and capture through my eyes and trough the camera; they don't necessarily need to be far away from home, lost in distant, exotic places, which would reduce the number of times I can go on such trips dramatically; on the contrary, more often than not those places are quite near my flat, easily accesible by public transportation (or even by foot); it is simply a question of finding them, and going! Bangkok is a vast, diverse city and, if you are observant and curious enough, you will rarely run out of spots to visit, discover, walk and enjoy.

All about lines, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Staircase through the shadows, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
But sometimes you feel the need to do something a bit different, to stray from the usual environments and go off the beaten track, and this is precisely what happened to me a few weekends ago. My body asked for a photowalk, but I rejected the idea of visiting the places I have seen and walked so many times before; that day I needed something different and new, but nearby. After discarding some uninteresting ideas, I found an itinerary that sounded exciting and fun, yet it was just around the corner. Without more delay, I grabbed my camera and left my room. 2 bus stops later, I was at the beginning of my trip. There was a clear, defined line showing me the unmistakable way ahead: the railtracks.

Wheels vs. tracks, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Workers parade, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Bangkok doesn't have an extensive train system compared to other Asian cities, as it only counts with 3 elevated train lines, 1 underground line, and the traditional land lines that leave the city in multiple directions, linking the capital to the rest of the country. These latter lines are the original, primitive, oldest ones, the only ones traveling on the ground, and the ones I'm interested about, because they have the richest history, and because I can walk along their railtracks without interruptions or obstacles.

Khlong Tan Station, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Against the current, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Recess, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The itinerary is a very relaxed, easy and straight walk of roughly 4 kilometres: starting under Ramkhamhaeng Airport Link Station and walking towards the city center, the railtracks go through a very sparingly urbanized environment, where all you will see and pass by are a few humble neighborhoods of small shacks (reminiscent of rural Thailand but right in the heart of the metropolis), deserted plots of land, a couple of small scale and silent factories, and the back, hidden part of the high rise buildings that are looking in the opposite direction, that is, Phetchaburi Road, which travels parallel to the railtracks but ignoring them completely, separated by the impenetrable concrete of the modern buildings. So near, yet so dissociated and apart from each other, as two completely unrelated worlds.

The observer I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The observer II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Bare foot, busy ear, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
A bit further ahead you will pass the old Klong Tan Train Station, a rundown parking area reconverted to playground, patches of bare ground where the dwellers of these lands play volleyball or takraw, and, obviously, a few markets, all lined along the tracks, mere centimeters from them, as close as a shadow is to the object projecting it. The railtracks are the spine of this whole area, no doubt, and all activities (business and leisure) spin around them.

Train smelling dog, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Levels, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
A window without frame, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
And, coming as a no surprise, I encountered people, lots of them, and they were all, as it is the norm in this warm country, curious and friendly. Kids playing in the playground or adults playing music with their neighborhood band, teenagers eating ice cream or customers negotiating in the markets, the railtracks are populated by faces that never cease to smile. There was only one thing that didn't cooperate with me to make this a perfect stroll: the grey sky. The light was harsh and ugly, and everything looked dull and flat, but this has challenged me to try a style that I haven't explored deeply yet, and which is starting to appeal to me more each day: monochrome photography.

The joy of  childhood, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The joy of music, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
This is my first post since I created this blog where all the captures are monochrome, and I have realized how suitable this look is for high contrast, harsh light environments. I'm afraid I'm going to explore this direction further in the future!

Oblivion, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Relic, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
And this way my trip ended in Makkasan Airport Link Station, as the sun was already setting and it was getting dark all around me, so I caught a bus and returned home. But one thing is clear: I will definitely continue this trip further along the railtracks soon! (To see the second part of this walk along the railtracks click here).

18 May 2014

Born by chance: handbag photography

The joy of having a small camera with you at all times is that it will grant you countless opportunities to capture images in places where you didn't expect to photograph at all. Not that there are places or situations suitable for photography and others that are not (after all, photography is a complex, subjective art that depends on the eye of the photographer and not in the surroundings themselves), rather there are situations in which you carry a camera along and situations in which you don't. And this is the key point here: having an unobtrusive camera with you wherever you go is like carrying a pack of tissues: you don't remember they hide somewhere in your handbag (for they are small and light), but should the occasion arise, you instantly know they are there, within immediate reach.

Early riser, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Light trap, GM1 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Inversion, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
I discovered this blessing when I purchased the GM1 a few months ago (which, in fact, it's no bigger than the aforementioned pack of tissues, though it's a bit weightier); before that, carrying a camera was always a conscious exercise, not only because it's bigger and obviously you cannot ignore its presence hanging from your neck or in your bag, but also because I only carried it along when I willingly wanted to go out to shoot. Some people would argue that you can use your smartphone as an "always with you" camera, and that might be true, but in my experience, a phone is a multitasking device that happens to take pictures, while a dedicated camera, as small as it might be, has a completely different feel to it and offers much more flexibility for the demanding photographer.

Flower frame, GM1 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Resting grill, GM1 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
This post is proof of my previous assert: during the last weeks, I have been to several places for different reasons, ranging from work, to leisure, to family matters. In all of them, photography was not among my initial purposes, as there were other concerns that mattered most, but I happened to carry the GM1 with me every time. And this is the sole reason why all the images in this post exist. In between meetings, on the way to the office, while waiting for someone in the street, going back home, walking to the bus stop or the pier..., all these captures were born because my camera was at hand while I was doing something else. The scenes unfolded in front of me, and I only had to unzip the bag, switch on, and shoot.

The smash, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Street art & street sport, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Nevertheless, do the circumstances really matter? Is there any difference between taking a picture while, let's say, on a photo walk with a group of other photographers, and while hurrying home from the supermarket on your own? When considering only the images, there is no difference at all, they are all equally valuable, they both tell a story, they both speak the same language and can have the same impact (besides, the audience, more often than not, has no clue about the process behind each capture, and knowing wouldn't change our perception of the capture that much, most of the times; it could deepen our understanding, empathy or appreciation, but an image that is not able to catch our attention by itself, rarely will do after an explanation of its backstory). In my view, words should enhance, complement, dress up the image, but the photograph is, and always should be, the center and star of the show, so to speak.

The dog in the sun, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Flows, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
The walk, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
In the end, it's not a question of differences, but of something much more essential; as a well known playwright once said, "to be or not to be" is exactly the issue at play here; had I not have had the camera with me on those occasions, none of the stills displayed in this post would exist. Simple as that. Though we could add another added benefit of a small camera: its tiny size is extremely misleading (and useful for that same reason) and most people will take it for an under-performer, thus granting you permission to enter with it to a location that explicitly restricts the use of dslr's, such as a concert. Thank you misinformation!

Furtiveness, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm