Editor’s Note – James here. You may have noticed that we’re branching out from our usual gear reviews and opinion pieces. While those will still make up the lion’s share of posts here at CP, we also want to bring you articles that show what people are doing with the cameras, lenses, and film we’re always talking about. Our Featured Photophile series and other recent posts from contributing writers do this – and so does today’s post. In this travel log, guest contributor Dan Diaz takes us on a trip through Thailand in which each new day brings a different film stock and a new adventure. Brew a cup, settle in, and enjoy some excellent photos.
Day One – Fujicolor Superia 1600
We arrive on a Sunday and are scheduled to stay for less than a week. This means we must immediately get exploring. I quickly grab my Nikon F3 and a box of what I think is Kodak Ektar, except it isn’t Ektar. Because of a mixup during the airport inspection, my box of Ektar has been repacked with Fujicolor Superia 1600, which I was saving for some night time shooting at Khao San Road. Luckily I realize before closing the back and am able to set the camera to 1600. Oh well.
Arriving on the weekend means that we’re able to visit and shop the Chatuchak weekend market during our first day in Thailand. This market is so big that it takes the whole day to fully explore. The food is amazing and the trinkets are cheap. I suggest visitors schedule it as the last stop of their trip, so they can spend their remaining money here.
Superia 1600 ends up being quite nice. Though a bit grainy, it renders great skin tones and delivers consistently wonderful photos at a price that’s lower than other high ISO films. It’s a must-try.
Day Two – Kodak Portra 400 and Ektar 100
Day two of our Bangkok trip takes us to Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho temples. Both are mesmerizing and vibrantly colored, perfect for shooting Kodak’s Portra 400 and Ektar 100. Though primarily marketed as a film for portraiture, Portra’s forgiving exposure latitude and rich warmth make it excellent for landscapes and colorful scenes as well.
Kodak Ektar is my favorite color negative film. It’s simple and straightforward – just bathe it with light on a sunny day and enjoy the vibrant colors. Grain is non-existent, making it great for landscapes and architectural shots. Portraiture is possible, but be wary that skin tones can turn to nasty red on some people.
While touring the temples I thought of some tips for photogs who are traveling. First, bring a wide angle lens. I only had my 50mm lens on this trip and I was sorely missing my 24mm, as there were a lot of photo ops that could’ve benefited from a wider perspective. Next, be aware of local customs, such as the dress codes in the temples I visited. Act and dress respectfully. And be wise to street culture. Where I visited there were people there to give “free” corn for the pigeons. Moments later they’d ask for 150 bhat per handful.
I’d already had an affinity for buddhism, and visiting and photographing these temples with their beautiful meditating statues and rich, symbolic architecture only deepened it.
Day Three – HP5 Plus at 1600
Day three finds me shooting Ilford HP5 Plus, which is a great and versatile film. Shot at box speed of 400, I find it a little flat. Where I think HP5 Plus really excels and even beats the legendary Kodak Tri-X is when pushed to 1600. This brings out a really unique grain and makes for images that are punchy and loaded with contrast.
Loading this into the camera, we head to Chao Mae Tuptim shrine, also known as the Penis Shrine. The caretaker tells us that they just removed half of the penises in the shrine, as things were getting a bit crowded. Even so, penises are everywhere. People having fertility issue leave behind a phallic candle or idol to make their wish come true. It’s said that those who touch the phallus will have good luck and fertility. There are also elephant figures and creepy doll dresses, though I don’t know what these are for.
We travel next to Banyan Tree sky bar. Being on a tight budget and just wanting to sight-see, we only order drinks. Thankfully, there’s free nuts and a great view. The safety railings offer a great spot to mount a Gorilla Pod and a wide angle lens. Time it just right for sunset shots, order a few more drinks ’til it’s dark, and you’ll have a great night shot of Bangkok.
Follow along with more of Dan’s adventures in photography on his blog.