Event-ful Photography. Forget the Traffic, High Humidity and Enjoy the Show / Bangkok, Thailand


Classical Thai Dancer on stage at Loha Prasat temple, Bangkok

Classical Thai Dancer on stage at Loha Prasat temple, Bangkok

I covered two events as photographer over the last week. One, high-profile and close to home, the other a test of mettle to arrive on time…

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Bangkok celebrated its title of World Book Capital 2013 this month in style. The honour, bestowed upon Bangkok by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2011, was accepted by Bangkok city governor Suhumbhand Paribatra.

UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education Director Mr Gwang-Jo Kim opened proceedings, followed by speeches including dignitaries from the previous 2012 capital, Yerevan in Armenia and next year’s 2104 capital Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

See article here:
http://www.unescobkk.org/news/article/speech-by-dr-gwang-jo-kim-director-of-unesco-bangkok-the-handover-ceremony-of-world-book-capital/

Getting shots the cool way
Naturally, the sense of sartorial occasion (at the resplendent and beguiling Loha Prasat Temple complex in Panh Fa, Bangkok – below) demanded clothing not short of that which you’d glimpse at a royal wedding.

Unfortunately, at this time of year – approaching high summer and high humidity – board shorts and a singlet would have been far more appropriate for this kind of job.

Loha Prasat temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Loha Prasat temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Event photography involves some physical exercise and an eye for position. Squinting through a viewfinder, stooped with legs bent (that eventually turn to jelly if held too long), one elbow raised to keep the other dozen or so snappers at bay doesn’t help you compose easily.

Puppeteers mingle with guests

Puppeteers mingle with guests

As fortune would have it, the elaborate Thai classical dance that opened the event (above and below), imparting a traditional story heaped in centuries of lore and myth, is all the more atmospheric with the use of a dry ice machine.

One of the best viewpoints for photos on this occasion was in a direct line of these plumes of wet, cold ice, intermittently ejected to great effect for the dance, great for hot weather,  but a mixed blessing for me.

Dry ice enhances the stage presence of the classical Thai dancers.

My clothes bled droplets of iced water. The lens had to be kept constantly dry – quite a distraction when under pressure. The mist covering the lens surface can be used to good effect, but the low light and constantly changing scenes, in my opinion, needed clarity.

Throngs of photographers were directly behind me so my position was pretty fixed. I kept my camera settings more flexible. I tried a variety of flash shots at ‘S’ (shutter priority) and ‘M’ (manual) with the excellent Olympus FL-50R flash which renders beautiful colour. Both settings fulfilled their purpose: ‘S’ for freezing close-up action and manual exposure to retain background information which proved so beautiful on the night.

These fast-moving shots needed concentration and clear lenses.

The World Book Capital event, staged directly opposite my home meant only a short stroll after inspiring performances. Getting to a shoot booked on the other side of a town like Bangkok however, can, in itself, be an event of epic proportions. It was worth a blog.

Getting there the hard way
The second shoot was at an International School as part of a poster for Early Childhood Education. The shoot itself was the easiest part.

As with any high-profile appointment, a photo shoot demands prompt arrival, time to set up (see Event TIPS below) and greetings to the participants. I allowed myself two-and-a-half hours to reach this school on the other side of Bangkok. I started out relaxed, excited and inspired. I arrived in tatters, ten minutes late, as parents, teachers and children awaited my arrival.

The first taxi broke down in the fast lane. I stuck with him. It broke down again on the expressway again in searing heat. The taxi driver kicked his car, I cursed my luck. One, two and then three taxis turned down my request for assistance. I tried two motorbike taxis, again they had no idea where this school was. Despite coming prepared with screenshots of detailed maps and road names in Thai I was getting desperate. If they couldn’t get me there – who could?

In a five-lane road, (fortunately) crawling in horrendous traffic – I ran to an empty taxi and hoped the driver would play sympathetic to my plight. He continued arguing with someone on his telephone and nodded. My mapped destination seemed to help. He became bad-tempered as the traffic honked behind him, so I called the school and asked for a Thai speaker to direct him. This did the trick, and finally, after more desperately slow traffic jams I saw a sign for the school.

The shoot was over in 30 minutes but the two-hour trip home had just begun. At least the shots were in the bag.

Event TIPS:

  • Get a programme of events a day or two before
  • Check out the location for your position as early as you can
  • Check your gear is in full working order!
  • When you arrive, meet your contacts for any special information that may help your planning
  • Decide on which settings you will use for a variety of moments, and;
  • Envisage the shots. Explore your flash settings and use to good effect.
  • Use new/fully charged batteries
  • Don’t be afraid to move briefly into a good position to get the shot you know will work. You can then return to your original position.
  • Keep your lens clean
  • Practical Considerations:
  • Drink lots of water
  • Wear light clothing
  • Eat and drink something if you’re in for a long night
  • Be polite and respectful to performers and other photographers/journalists

Related Links
The Nation
http://thenationonlineng.net/new/arts/life-midweek-magazine/world-book-capital-team-in-bangkok-excites-london-fans/

Books + Publishing
http://www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au/DetailPage.aspx?type=worlditem&id=26956

International Publishers Association
http://www.internationalpublishers.org/ipa-press-releases/298-bangkok-thailand-elected-world-book-capital-2013

© Warren Field 2013
Taken on OLYMPUS E-System Cameras and Zuiko lenses.

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