Beautiful Rongngeng Dance, Bangkok, Thailand


The short film above shows a professional dancer from southern Thailand performing strenuous moves with powerful expression and skilled restraint.

The dance is known as Rongngeng, from the band Ussaleemala (Miracle of Friendship). Music was played from their album of the same name. The dancer is seen here rehearsing with her students in the local Santichaiprakarn park, Bangkok.

The band gave me permission to record the rehearsals for an evening performance along the mighty strip of road that is Radjadamnoen Klang Road (see link bottom) – highway to the King and home to the exhibition hall dedicated to the founding of Bangkok.

Retaining these traditional dances is essential. Its transition from an actual rite of passage to a more tourism-based dance, perhaps, loses more local esoteric costume and movements but it’s one way these remarkably talented dancers keep the culture alive. Our support cannot be underestimated.

Weekends in the local Santichaiprakarn Park continue to provide cultural insights to life in Thailand. The third dance event I have come cross while enjoying the Chao Phraya river scenery. Others below:

*Dikir Hulu / Southern Thailand
https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/dikir-hulu-southern-thai-sitting-dance/

**Thai Expression in paint and dance / Bangkok, Thailand
https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/bangkok-theatre-festival-dance/ 

Background to the Dance Style
Rongngeng is a folk dance from southern Thailand and has its origins in Spain and Portugal, performed as part of a boat ceremony, paying homage to seafaring ancestors, the materials used and the construction and eventual floating of the vessel. Additionally, as suggested by its rather exotic movements, the dance was performed by young males and females for choosing marriage partners.

The movements are inspired from sea creatures and gleaned from other styles, namely: Lagu Dua, Spaita, Moh Inans, Je Sulong and Ayam Dede from the Malyasian and Indonesian and aforementioned European traditions.

The dance is characterised by:

  • front, side and cross-steps;
  • low arm positions normally but higher positions used here too.
  • open hand with fingers pointing upwards;
  • hand rotation and twisting;
  • hip-twisting and;
  • leaning the head towards the hand

Related links:
King of the Roads – Radjadamnoen Klang, Bangkok.
https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/king-of-the-roads-radjadamnoen-klang-bangkok/

Sources:
Sawit Pongvat: A Native Dance of Southern Thailand (Thesis).

Miracle of Friendship email:
apichat_mc@yahoo.com

*Recorded on a Samsung S2 mobile.
** Recorded on a Lumix DMC-FT1 Compact Camera

© Warren Field 2013

See more work from Warren:
Warren Field Photo-libraryhttp://warrenfield.com.au/
Warren Field Photography- Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Warren-Field-Photography/219194754785391

Blogs are put together as accurately as possible in a short space of time, occasionally edited later for improvement.
Constructive feedback is welcome.

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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…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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.

A Moon in March. Bangkok, Thailand 2013


Waning moon in perigee, Bangkok, Thailand
Tip: click on image for larger view

I love a moon shot. Last night, the waning moon (shown here at 85% illumination) was in perigee, meaning the satellite’s orbit is at its point nearest to the earth’s centre – 367,542 km as opposed to apogee – the furthest from the earth – approx 404,000 km. Taken from my rooftop in central Bangkok on Saturday March 30, 2013 at 10.30pm.

The size of the moon at these two opposing stages is easily seen in the image below. A good opportunity for photographers to get better resolution in the image (less cropping needed).

apogee_perigee

The waxing moon below (also at perigee) photographed in the southern hemisphere in April 2009 in South Australia shows a rotated form – compare to image at top. Shooting at such a long distance through afternoon light paints the moon in a blue UV haze (slightly exaggerated here), something not often seen in moon shots.

Waxing moon in perigee, South Australia
Tip: click on image for larger view

Related links

Warren Field Photography moon images:
http://warrenfield.com.au/galleries/the-moon

See Blog ‘The Magic of Moonlight’:
https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/the-magic-of-moonlight-2/

Sources:
www.moonconnection.com

timeanddate.com / Moon phase info:
http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/moonphases.html

Image specs topOlympus E-3, f8 1/20 second, ISO 100, EC-20 2 x teleconverter, Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom (set at 1000m film equivalent), white balance cloudy mode, aperture priority, Exposure -4.3EV, manual focus, metering: centre-weighted average, natural mode, tripod. 

Image specs aboveOlympus E-3, f16 1/125 second, ISO 100, EC-20 2 x teleconverter, Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom (set at 1000m film equivalent), white balance auto, manual exposure, manual focus, metering: ESP+AF, vivid mode, tripod. 

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

Floral Tribute on Macha Bucha Day, February 25th 2013


Loha Prasat temple enshrined by marigolds on Macha Bucha Day (February 25th)

Loha Prasat temple enshrined by marigolds on Macha Bucha Day (February 25th)

Celebrated on a full moon in February, Macha Bucha honours the sermon given to over a 1000 disciples who turned up unannounced to receive the Buddha’s word.

Vivid floral arrangements in the historical locality of Rattanakosin, my current base, line the ramparts of Loha Prasat temple (above) and lead the eye along the the ‘Kings Avenue’ – Radjadamnoen Road.

Being a public holiday in Thailand one can immerse oneself in the colourful sites prepared for this important religious day.

Rattanakosin is centred on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya river and peppered with canals (khlongs) built to fortify the defences of the original capital. Khlongs now slug commuters along their murky depths. Khao San Road is a stone’s throw from here.

Macha Bucha is also celebrated in neighbouring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Macha is Pali, for ‘third lunar month’ and Bucha means’ to venerate’.

Monks at breakfast, Wat Bowon on Macha Bucha Dayy (Feb 25th 2013), Bangkok, Thailand

Monks at breakfast, Wat Bowon on Macha Bucha Day (Feb 25th 2013), Bangkok, Thailand

Trees lining Radjadamnoen Road also receive 'grafted' floral tributes.

Trees lining Radjadamnoen Road also receive ‘grafted’ floral tributes.

Circumnavigating the central temple building three times is practiced in devotion.

Circumnavigating the central temple building three times is practiced in devotion.

Related Links

King of the Roads – Radjadamnoen Klang, Bangkok:
https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/king-of-the-roads-radjadamnoen-klang-bangkok/

Floral Tribute on Macha Bucha Day 2012
https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/early-to-rise-makha-bhucha-day-full-moon-march-7th-2012/

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

Winter Sun, Bangkok, Thailand


Setting sun at Loha Prasat, Bangkok, Thailand

Setting sun at Loha Prasat Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

It’s been a good winter for red suns so far. I’ve photographed this phenomena three times in the last month, twice in Bangkok and once in Koh Kood.

See blog: https://warrenfield.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/pristine-for-now-the-charm-of-koh-kood-thailand

Due to the oblique angle of the sun when low on the horizon, light must travel through more atmosphere to reach us (see diagram below). Blue light, with a higher frequency wavelength than red or orange, is scattered and absorbed by dust particles in the earth’s atmosphere away from our sight, leaving only the lower frequency red and orange wavelengths to get through.

Sun

Camera exposure affects the colour of the evening sun too. The picture above exposes for a little detail in the temple roof compromising the exact red colour of the sun, over-exposing here almost to white. With the naked eye I see a redder sun but happy to let the image stand as is.

Temple detail in setting sun at Loha Prasat, Bangkok, Thailand

Temple detail in setting sun at Loha Prasat, Bangkok, Thailand

Image specs top pic: Olympus E-3, f5.6 1/640 second, ISO 100, EC-20 2 x teleconverter,  Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom, white balance cloudy mode, manual exposure, manual focus, metering: spot, natural mode, tripod. 

Image specs above: Olympus E-3, f5.6 1/200 second, ISO 100, EC-20 2 x teleconverter, Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom, white balance cloudy mode, manual exposure, manual focus, metering: spot, natural mode, tripod. 

Sources: http://earthsky.org/space/sun-looks-on-horizon

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

The charm of Koh Kood, Thailand


Koh Kood sunset from the mainland, Thailand

Koh Kood sunset from the mainland, Thailand

The perfect time of year to visit an island paradise in Thailand is when it’s right for you.

If you arrive May-September the consistent monsoon rains mean low season prices, no crowds, lush vegetation and saturated waterfalls.

I visited Koh Kood (Koh Kut in Thai) last weekend (high season) and anticipated crowds and noisy bars. Instead I found inspiring countryside, traffic-free roads, a scene mercilessly free of ‘boom boom’ music, wicked sunsets and tasty food.

Koh Kood remains relatively unspoilt in my opinion without the addition of a large town, in contrast to its larger neighbour Koh Chang. The havoc of development of some of the more popular islands such as Koh Samet (although the beaches are stunning there) is noticeable – building rubble strewn everywhere and the ubiquitous litter problem being the most prominent ‘nasties’.

Fourth largest island after Koh Samui, it is the least developed island and it is the Thais themselves who spend most time here. With a small population of around two thousand, small businesses concentrate mostly on accommodating tourists with sidelines for kayaking, snorkelling and diving offered by most guesthouses and resorts.

One of Koh Kood's alluring beaches, complete with palms and sunset.

One of Koh Kood’s alluring beaches, complete with palms and sunset.

Situated in the gulf of Thailand near the town of Trat in the lesser travelled south-east (as opposed to the extremely popular party islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan in the south-west), it is an accessible weekend trip from Bangkok (4-5 hours – minibus or bus).

THAILAND-LOCO

The Koh Kood express boat from Laem Sok pier, a thirty minute drive from Trat town, will take one hour to the island. The seating area is slung low to the water and glides efficiently over the waves. There are great views of the island along the way.

Many good quality resorts cater to the higher-priced market but from what I saw remain nature-considered in their construction and pleasant. More of a family or honeymoon option.

The backpacker guest houses are close to the beaches. What more do you need!

Hiring a 125cc motorbike is a great option for most as the roads are free of traffic and easily navigable, but there is one major safety consideration however. The winding roads have many steep inclines and care is needed to navigate corners and slopes at speed.

The Thai custom of carrying their babies helmetless, between father and mother on a bike, has never seemed a good idea at best, but Thais at least have experience with this. Bangkok demonstrates to me the ultimate hazard – carrying siblings side-saddle (sometimes a family pet too). On Koh Kood, I saw families attempting the same with two bikes. I winced and hoped they’d be safe.

Extensive rainforests harbour some interesting waterfalls. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself island-hopping in October, the falls will be at their most resplendant. I visited Klong Chao waterfall, an easy ride from the guest houses. Although low in water volume at this time of year it is a lovely place and a popular swimming hole (see pic at bottom).

Many major fishing villages dot the coastline and you will enjoy some great seafood and photo opportunities.

Get your seafood here.

Get your seafood here.

Fishing village and pier, Koh Kood, Thailand

Fishing village and pier, Koh Kood, Thailand

Son helping father at one of the harbour seafood restaurants at Koh Kood, Thailand

Son helping father at one of the harbour seafood restaurants at Koh Kood, Thailand

Koh Kood’s mountainous terrain in the central region is mostly off-limits in this hot, humid environment but it adds such grandeur to this gentle island. The extensive tropical rainforest and groves of coastal palms maintain the allure of a pristine natural environment.

Dense palm groves along the coast of Koh Kood, Thailand

Dense palm groves along the coast of Koh Kood, Thailand

Peaceful estuarine river scenery, Koh Kood, Thailand

The west coast of the island promises magnificent sunsets and I guess that’s why development is ultimately concentrated here?

Winter is a good time to enjoy a setting red sun – one of my favourite spectacles in nature. On this particular evening the sun grew heavy and I anticipated its glow resting briefly on the horizon until the invisible cloak of clouds stole the finale, hiding the orb.

A red sun hovers.

A red sun hovers.

Whether my continued visits to and promotion of Koh Kood’s assets add to the environmental pressure is a fair debate, but if you do visit you will see the argument for leaving only footprints.

At Klong Chao waterfall, Koh Kood, Thailand

Map: © Google Maps

Sources:
http://www.kokood.com
A-Na-Lay Resort / http://www.analay.com
http://www.kohkood.info/

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