30 Nov 2015

Monochromes in old Bangkok (Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk 2015)

Last Saturday, 3rd of October, Scott Kelby organized its annual Worldwide Photowalk, one of the biggest photographic events of the year, with tens of cities and thousands of photographers taking part in it across the Globe. It had been raining the whole week (we were at the last weeks of the monsoon season in Thailand at that point), but that Saturday was surprisingly sunny, so there was no reason to stay at home. At 3pm in the afternoon, as scheduled, a very generous group of walkers gathered in Hualampong Train Station and, after the mandatory greetings and group picture, the walk began. I carried my usual set of 2 cameras with 2 primes (a wide angle and a short telephoto), and I decided I would be shooting exclusively monochromes that day, since I hadn't done that for quite a while and the old quarters we were going to visit seemed perfect for that style.

I wish, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Different ways of waiting, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The plaza I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The Plaza II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Looking in, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Camouflage, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
It was late afternoon, so we encountered many static scenes, empty lanes and quiet alleys along the walk, with people dozing in their open-door homes or outdoors, under the shades provided by the trees; however, those streets host a very healthy workshop community, so movement was also present everywhere we went to, with one common denominator: since most of the alleys are very narrow and full of sharp corners, motorbikes were ubiquitous.

Public restroom, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Junction, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Still movement, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Apetizer on the bike, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The hump, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Like it usually happens in this kind of events, we all started as a group, but our personal interests guided us in divergent directions and we slowly drifted away from one another. In the end, I was completely by myself, strolling along those labyrinthine roads while the sunset approached and countless more souls started appearing from all places. Walking some more without direction, I managed to find the way back to the station somehow, and that ended the photowalk. It was dark outside already, so i packed my cameras, grabbed some food, and let the underground swallow me to bring me back home.

Gear, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Rooftop lake, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm

29 Oct 2015

500px Global Photo Walk 2015: Bangkok 3.0

Last Saturday, 26th of September, the famous photography site 500px held its third annual Global Photo Walk in many cities around the world and, as it has become a tradition already, Bangkok was one of them. The day awoke sunny and with a clear sky after a full week of rain and storms, so the excitement started to grow as the afternoon was drawing closer and the time to meet people who I had not seen since last year's outing, along with some new faces, approached. I was anxious and couldn't wait for the appointed time to arrive, so I decided to start the walk on my own a bit earlier; therefore, and after a generous lunch, I started the stroll along the railtracks towards my destination, warming up the camera along the way.

Spinning, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Delay, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Arches that hide, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The meeting point was Makkasan Train Station, a place I had not visited for quite some time, so it was the perfect ground to start our group walk. We waited for a while until the small gang was formed and, although we were less than last year, the atmosphere between all of us was great, full of camaraderie. Giving the late comers some more time to arrive, we awaited while shooting the station grounds, always interesting and filled with countless details and subjects to focus on.

The Bangkok 500px GPW 2015 Gang, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Break time, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Pushing, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm

Inside out, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Not yet, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Duty, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Not long after after, the real walk started and we stepped into the old railtracks, bordered on both sides by a humble community of people of all sorts and ages that were always eager to smile at us and interact with us in a very friendly manner. They were the kids, however, the ones who embraced our presence more willingly, chasing us and demanding lots of attention, and our small group couldn't resist the temptation to play with them and have some fun, while at the same time teaching them some very basic notions about photography. There is nothing better than curiosity to learn!

The line, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The group, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Multiple sources of interest, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
It had rained the night before, so the floor was muddy and full of puddles at times, so we advanced slowly along the tracks, but we enjoyed every meter of our march and kept finding and chatting with other people who lived in the neighborhood, all of them going ahead with their usual daily routines, totally unperturbed by our respectful intrusion.

The game, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm 
Not alone, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Suddenly, and before any of us could realize, night had fallen upon us and the narrow tracks became quite dark, punctuated only by the bulbs of the neighbors who lived there, but we still stayed for a while longer, walking slowly towards the end of the itinerary, taking any chance to merge with the locals and observe how they have adapted to live in such a curious place. And, as it always happens when you are enjoying, we reached the end of the walk before we wanted. Some of the walkers still stayed for a few drinks at a street market nearby, but I had to leave since I had other appointment later on. Thanks everybody for a lovely afternoon, and see you again, if not earlier, at next year's walk!

Breeze, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The workshop, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Somebody's dinner, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Living on the edge, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm

12 Oct 2015

Japan diaries III: the human legacy

When we are gone, what will remain of us? We, humans, have an incontrolable desire to remain, to challenge the inevitability of death, and we do this mainly through art: we create things that were not in this planet before we arrived here and wish for them to stay as long as possible for future generations to remember that we were. The beautiful selfishness of human art is just that, a desire of permanence, more than anything else. Judging wether the pieces we create are worthy of any praise or not is another issue altogether, and I'm not here to attempt that; after the entries focused on people and nature, here I want to present a few captures that portray the way Japan has expressed (and still does) his own personality and sensibility through the ages. And no other place could be more fit to start this journey than Kyoto, once the mighty capital of the Empire, today a city proudly anchored simultaneously in the past and in the present.

Kinkakuji Temple, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Inari Shrine, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Inari Shrine, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Mizumidera Temple, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Mizumidera Shrine, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Ryoanji Temple, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Mount Kurama Lantern, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Before Kyoto, however, it was Nara which held the title of capital during the VIII century of our era, and even though it lost that position to Kyoto later on, it still remains a beautiful, heritage-rich city were nature coexists with history and even with modern times better than any of the other big cities of Japan.

Lanterns and shadows, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Kasuga Taisha Shrine I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Kasuga Taisha Shrine II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The deer, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Be it big structures or minimalist, small scale constructions, Japan never ceases to amaze the viewer with its unashamed attention to detail; parks and gardens, ponds and houses are kept in a precise, pristine order that, within the boundaries of this rigid arrangement, let nature express itself with curious freedom. Kanazawa, which hosts probably Japan's best know garden, is but one example of that.

Nomura-ke Residence Garden, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Flower and water, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The fish, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Dripping water, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Geography has never been an obstacle for human civilization; we have fought our way through the centuries adapting the land to our needs, and this is crystal clear in Japan, a mountainous country were any small plot of land is domesticated in order to become fit for human settlement and survival. The Gassho-style houses of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are a perfect example of this will to tame nature in order to make it habitable and fertile.

Shirakawa-go I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Shirakawa-go II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Shirakawa-go III, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Shirakawa-go IV, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Red in summer, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Shirakawa-go V, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Ainokua I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Ainokura II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
But not all efforts are geared towards colonization or even to productive agriculture; souls also need a home, and us, humans, have always listened to their otherworldly desires and tended to them. Shrines or temples, statues or mourning monuments, our lands are full of places that serve no other purpose but to find piece of soul, to meditate, to pray. To rest.

Myojin Pond Pier I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Myojin Pond Pier II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Taisho Pond, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
There are so many other places I visited during my three weeks in Japan that representing them all, even minimally, would require an amount of images that I don't even have, for many times my memories didn't leave my eyes and stayed solely there, never making their way to the memory card stored within my cameras. A few random captures, however, can give a brief idea of the range of places I encountered, walked, experienced, loved. Tokyo gardens, Totsukawa boats, Himeji walls, Takayama paths, they all felt my lonely strolls without a single complain, and those are moments I will always remember.

Shinjuku Gyoen I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Shinjuku Gyoen II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Totsukawa onsen, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Himeji Castle, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Cloudy Takayama, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The path, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm

We long to survive the test of time, though I'm afraid all needs to eventually disappear in order to make room for new things to appear, and there is no other better symbol of the impermanence of all things that fire: the fierce element capable of devouring entire cities that fades away completely and leaves no trace behind that time cannot heal. Such are the memories I cherish so deeply within my heart from this unforgettable trip: snowflakes that will melt, quietly and without resilience, but only after leaving a brief shiver behind.

Sumida Fireworks Festival I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Sumida Fireworks Festival II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Sumida Fireworks Festival III, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Sumida Fireworks Festival IV, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Sumida Fireworks Festival V, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm