Teaching, celebrating & shooting

Hi everyone! we’re currently in the greater Tampa area and I just wrapped up a fun week, which started all the way across the country in Seattle! Last week was Creative Cloud Fundamentals Week at creativeLIVE, and I was teaching the Photoshop segment of it. This was just a one-day class, and if you missed it, you can get it HERE, or get it as part of the whole CC Fundamentals bundle.

While we’re still on the topic of creativeLIVE, I’m excited to announce a new class I’ll be teaching next month, July 21-23. It’s called Post-Processing for Outdoor & Travel Photographers. This topic is extra special to me because these are two of the main types of photography I do. We’ll be using both Lightroom and Photoshop in this class, and you can learn more about it or enroll for free HERE.

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I arrived back to the Tampa area after a redeye flight and landed the morning of my birthday! Aside from a much-needed nap, Karen had some fun things in store for the day including breakfast at one of our favorite places in the area, a cake she made completely of fruit (because that’s my favorite!) and a visit to a local brewery. (I’m a huge fan of craft beer and love to visit different breweries as we travel about.) Near the end of the day, we embarked on a sunset cruise that left from Clearwater Beach. While the actual sunset wasn’t overly spectacular, the sky put on quite a show for us afterwards. It was a great mix of storm clouds lit by what was left of the golden light. We even got to see a waterspout (a water tornado) nearby. Pretty cool! At the end of the night, we had dinner at a tapas place we like in Clearwater Beach.

BenSkyPanoAn iPhone pano I shot of the post-sunset clouds in Clearwater

BenKarBoatKaren and I on the sunset cruise

As implied from the title of this post, I also got to do some shooting this week. If you read this blog often, you know about my service station project. I have researched and located over 250 vintage service stations around the country and my plan is to photograph each one. I had been conversing with the owner of this Polly Station in the greater Tampa area and we finally set up a time this week for me to head over and shoot it. The shot below is just an iPhone shot that I also processed on the iPhone. The actually shots will take much longer to process.

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Well, that’s it for now folks. The upcoming week will be more on the mellow side, where I’ll be catching up with work and some image processing. More to come!

Contrasting ports in Malaysia

Yep, even though I’m physically on a multi-stop domestic trip at the moment (more on that in the next post), the blog is still in Southeast Asia. I wanted to show you some images from two very different ports in Malaysia. It was interesting how so many of the ports we visited contrasted with each other. It was actually refreshing for me and Karen, as we embrace all kinds of experiences. We would spend a few days in one place that was maybe a bit more rugged and not set up for visitors, and then we’d be in a bustling city with Louis Vuitton stores and Starbucks. That was the case as we went from Yangon in Myanmar (Burma) to Kuala Lumpur, which is the most bustling city in Malaysia. This was actually one place where we wish we had more time. It was a one-day stop for us, and we had wished it would be more like two or three.

We explored as much of the city as we could in that short time, and the first place we headed was, of course, the iconic Petronas Towers. I think that when post people think of Kuala Lumpur, they visualize these towers. Whether that’s because they were the tallest buildings in the world for a while, or because they were featured in the movie “Entrapment” a while back, I don’t know. But they’re pretty famous, so we wanted to photograph them. You can actually get some nice compositions there because the neighboring park makes for some beautiful foregrounds. Then we took the light rail to Kuala Lumpur’s China Town, where we wandered for a bit. We actually weren’t into this China Town because it was mostly cheezy souvenirs and knock-off labels, but we did find a really funky reggae ┬ábar and stopped for a drink. Then we continued to wander around from there, exploring some historic buildings and temples. Like I said, had we more time there, we would have gotten a much better feel for the city.

After Kuala Lumpur, we stopped at the beautiful little town of Malacca. Malacca is not only tiny in comparison to Kuala Lumpur, but it is a UNESCO Heritage Site, so many of its historic areas have been preserved. It has a quaint, relaxed feel with shops and restaurants lining a little waterway, lots of artists and craftsmen, small cafes and very old, historic buildings. And then there are the pedicabs. Boy oh boy. A pedicab is basically a 3-wheeled bike with seats in the back and a guy who pedals you wherever you want to go. There were pedicabs in most of the ports we visited, but none like the ones you’d see in Malacca. It’s kind of like they take pride in decorating their “rides” to the nines, with fake flowers, uniquely-shaped umbrellas, and Hello Kitty… LOTS of Hello Kitty. Just check out the photos and you’ll see what I mean. We really got a kick out of these guys. In Malacca, we spent the first part of the day visiting St. John’s Fort, which is a VERY old structure at the top of a hill near the port area. We photographed here for a while and then spent the rest of the way walking around the historic town, visiting art shops and shooting the old buildings. Despite the heat (it was easily over 100F) we spent the whole day exploring and shooting and had a blast!

Here are some images of Kuala Lumpur and Malacca:

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Myanmar: Markets, Monasteries & Monks

As you can tell, this post is focused on another one of our many stops in Southeast Asia last month. After sailing out of Phuket, Thailand, we headed north and docked at Yangon, Miramar (formerly known as Burma). We stayed at this port for three days, so we were able to do a lot of exploring. Two of the days were spent exploring on our own, and the other day was spent on a tour.

Like some of our other ports on this trip, Yangon does not really cater to tourists (except at some of the major sights) so you better have a good map if you want to get around. The language doesn’t even have characters that we recognized. The signs look more like swirly hieroglyphics! We did have a map, and we used it to walk ALL over the city. We literally walked about 10 miles the first day… in the 100-degree heat! As tiring as walking can be, it gives you a better idea of what a place is truly like. If you just cab it from one major sight to another, you miss all the “life” that’s happening in between.

The biggest attraction in Yangon is the insanely huge Schwedegon Pagoda, and we spent a good three hours exploring it. The place is like a buddhist village in that it’s so big, with a giant 325-foot stupa, surrounded by loads of temples, shrines and Buddhas. It was actually hard to photograph because there was just so much going on there, visually. We started exploring in the morning and had to stop by 1pm or so because the sun was making the marble floors so hot that we literally had to run from one shaded spot to another (as with most Buddhist temples and pagodas like this, you can’t wear shoes or socks while inside.)

On the day we went on a tour, we took a 2-hour (ish) bus ride to Bago, where we made several stops, the first of which being a monastery. That was really interesting because we got to see the daily lives of the monks, including the very young ones. They were very gracious about letting us take their photos, so it was quite a treat. We then walked through a small village where some of the young monks lived and saw some fabric weavers. They were so young, yet so skilled at operating these huge looms.

Finally, we walked through a few of the local markets up in Bago. It was interesting, because the people were SO not used to seeing tourists (Westerners, especially). The markets were so colorful and full of things I had never seen before. I think we were looking at some of the produce there with a similar expression to how they looked at our cameras!

Here are some of my (and Karen’s) images from Myanmar….

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Boat rides & cave temples in Thailand

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you can see that we’re just checking off one country after another on this incredible trip! My last post covered the photogenic, Malaysian town of Penang. From there we sailed north and docked in Phuket, Thailand. (Pronounced poo-ket) We decided to do a tour at this port as many of the interesting things to see were a ways from our docking location.

Our tour took us north from Phuket to the province of Phang Nga, where we visited a temple that was actually built inside a cave. The entrance to the cave was crawling with these goofy little monkeys looking for handouts…and with all the visitors there, they certainly got them! Once inside the cave, it opens up into a very large area with a huge reclining Buddha and several seated Buddhas, all in vibrant gold. If you continue on, you get to a more narrow and inclined part of the cave where you can explore the interesting rock formations. We spent about an hour exploring and photographing here before moving on to our next stop.

We then got on a small boat and cruised around Phang Nga Bay, which is a national park and home to many small islands, the most famous of them being James Bond Island, named after the two films that were shot there. The island is tiny but amazing to look at, with giant rock spires shooting up out of the water. After cruising around for a while, we visited a floating village, which was interesting because the whole “town” was build over the water on dock-like platforms. There was a market, a school, restaurants and homes. It was all pretty rugged, of course, but it’s amazing to see how differently some people live.

Finally, we finished our tour with a delicious Thai lunch at a hotel in Phang Nga. You just can’t visit Thailand without having some of that amazing food!

Our next stop would be Myanmar (Burma) so more on that soon! For now, here are some of my images from Phang Nga:

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A Day in Penang

As our South-east Asian adventure continued, we sailed from Singapore to the Malaysian city of Penang. Like many of the other ports, we explored on our own here instead of taking a tour. This town was amazing for street photography, so I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking, but there was such a great mix of color, texture and light here. Many of the buildings were old and worn but still charming, and the temples were colorful and plentiful. We also found some fun and unique shops in the town, including “Ben’s Vintage Toy Museum” (not kidding) and a store dedicated to owl things, which Karen went nuts for.

After exploring the town, we took a cab up to the Kek Lok Si temple, which is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It was situated on top of a huge hill and consists of several structures surrounding the 7-story main pagoda. It was truly a feast for the eyes and the lens! If there was anything worth pulling ourselves away from the amazing street photography in Penang, it was this.

Here is Penang in photos. Enjoy!

 

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