Me and Tennessee

Then that ol’ song comes on…  Together we’re singin’..

Any trip to the USA should include a visit to the music heartlands of Tennessee – Memphis and Nashville.

For taking photographs in the middle of summer however, it gets hot  – 100F hot – and has the harshest of harsh sunlight, so glare and shadow are going to be a problem.  I’d the trusty bog standard Olympus E450 with it’s 2 kit zooms which were fine as with the extreme brightness, wide open apertures weren’t going to be much use. And with a lot of colour being washed out with the bright light, black and white was the way to go.
So – a tale of two cities.

Music City

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Ernest Tubb’s record shop, South Broadway, Nashville

Nashville’s South Broadway is exactly as you would imagine it  – all guitars, boots and beer, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Everywhere you look there’s neon signs offering all you can eat and drink to the soundtrack of country music.  It’s a friendly city, accessible and has a laid back charm.  There’s a lot more downtown than SoBo – there’s loads of walks by the river, countless music venues, Tennesse State Museum and many country music museums.  However you’ll invariably end up back on Broadway with a beer in your hand and wearing a new hat.

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Tequila Cowboy, South Broadway
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Layla’s
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Honky Tonk Central, South Broadway
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Boots – one of many offers
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more than boots
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Joe
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Wasted away again in….

For the big music venues, there’s the Bridgestone Arena on South Broadway but for the ultimate in country experience, there’s the Opry – a few miles out of town, and for $35 you can get an unforgettable country music experience.

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The wonderful Grand Ole Opry
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Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

For sports, there’s the NFL (Tennessee Titans) , AAA Baseball (Nashville Sounds) or the Nashville Speedway – it’s about $10 for an evening’s racing.

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When you’ve had enough music, there’s cars

Memphis

About three hours away, Memphis is a very different experience.  Where Nashville has a folksy touristy charm, Memphis has a wee bit of an atmosphere – a bit more tense, a much harder rock, blues and soul soundtrack and its central attraction Beale Street has an edge that’s great to experience but with a completely different feel.  Still it’s well worth a visit – there’s Gibson Guitars, Rock n Soul and Stax Museums, loads of music venues and in like Nashville you’ll not go hungry or thirsty.

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Gibson Guitars – a great visit and you get to play some
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street bar, Beale Street
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Beale Street, Hard Rock Cafe
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Reassuring – no guns in this bar..
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Blues singer, Beale Street
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Sullivan’s Bar, Beale Street

Out of the cities, there’s a lot of Irish Heritage sites – this was the Rogan family homestead, 19th Century immigrants from Co Down.

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Finally, no matter where you go you’ll be in the presence of Elvis Presley.  Just don’t stand on the King.

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More Tennesse pics on the Flickr  https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1FiUpC

Chiang Rai Utd v Big Bang Chula FC

When you’re travelling around the world, you often experience things that are so different from your normal day to day life  – food, language, culture and customs – while other things are pretty much universal.  Football, with its globally consistent rules and multinational structures, transcends location and culture.
Turn up at a match and you could be anywhere.

front

Chiang Rai is the northernmost city in Thailand – a delightful, quirky place about 16 hours by train/bus from Bangkok – and hosts a top division league side – Chiang Rai United.  The Thai T1 league has 18 sides from around the country and all have badges, logos and designations in English as opposed to Thai, with many “Uniteds” and “FC’s”.  The opposition on this hot July evening was the splendidly named Big Bang Chula FC.

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The Singha Stadium is beside the airport about 15 minutes drive from the city centre (taxi is the best way to get there – and make sure you book one for after the match..) and it’s a fine modern stadium.  Outside there are the usual hordes of fans in replica kits and a number of stalls selling them – naturally I bought one.

Food is one big difference from the Irish or English leagues. In the absence of cheesey chips, there’s an array of spicy kebabs from 10 baht (0.20 GBP) each.

food
no manky pies or Bovril
drinks
cold drinks are essential in the 30 plus temperatures
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fans

Inside it’s open, largely uncovered and all-seater with the stands tight to the pitch.

stand

Before kick-off there was the formality of the Thai National Anthem.  This seems to have largely disappeared from European sporting events (excepting internationals) but like the States, where the anthem is sung everywhere from MLB and NFL down to local Friday night speedways, in Thailand they like to do the anthem at most public gatherings.  And as is common, it’s accompanied by a royal video clip.

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be upstanding and screen-facing, for the National Anthem

 

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5000 miles from the UK and there’s always a Man United fan..
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the Chiang Rai United rhythm section

On the pitch, there was a mix of players from Thailand and around the world including a few Brazilians.  A home team ex-pat favourite is Mark Bridge, an Australian and leading goalscorer.  The match itself was exciting affair resulting in a 2-2 draw, the crowd was noisy, the food was good and our taxi turned up on time after the match.  A perfect evening.

Mark Bridge 21
He makes it 1-0
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Mark Bridge, Chiang Rai United
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Final score 2 – 2.

Kit:
Canon 5D, 70-300 and 50mm lenses;
iPod (6th gen)

more Thai footie photos on the Flickr https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1qvnR9

Grand Prix. On Poundland 200.

I’ve been to a number of Grand Prix over the years – in Spain and Germany – and normally turn up with full frame DSLR, and a backpack of lenses, headed up by a monopodded 150-500 zoom.  However, for the 2017 trip to the Barcelona circuit, I decided to travel light.

F1kit

The Mju was a £3 purchase off the eBay a few years back before the current over-inflated prices appeared and the Praktica was a rebadged MTL3 bought from Argos in the mid-80s.  Both filled with Poundland 200 (in an Agfa box).

When armed with the digital setup on my previous visits, it ended up being an ongoing search for the sharpest panning shot for the weekend.  Pan-click-chimp-repeat.  And getting hundreds of panned racing car shots  that never saw the light of day.

So this year it was to be film only ( bar the phone) and shooting around the F1 village, the stands – but with the odd panning shot – see if an creaky manual Praktica and an old Vivitar zoom lens out of Boots could cut it.

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Barcelona circuit tower.  Praktica Nova II

And this was a liberating experience – I had a weekend to enjoy the racing and soak in the atmosphere, with no heavy gear to lug about and chimp-free snapping.

It was also interesting to watch the guys in the stands with the monopods and DSLR/big zoom kit and reflecting that despite all this gear, you were still just a punter in the stands.  I’ve shot some low level motorsport events and had press-photo access to Irish League football and to get the sort of shots that type of access allows, you really need exactly that  – access.  And when you’re a punter – it’s easier to take punter shots.

The kit itself?  Well the Mju is a wee delight.  Totally auto, good sharp autofocus (most of the time) and it’s a genuine pocket camera, quick and easy to snap and it’s easily one of the best point & shoots I’ve used. The flash is on by default, so you’ve to remember to knock it off if you don’t want flash. Apart from that, it’s quick and accurate.

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Team Verstappen
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Timing by Rolex
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Williams F1 truck
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Setting up the Ayrton Senna store
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The view from stand C

As for the Praktica, there’s no doubt it slows you down.  This particular one (of my many Prakticas) had a bit of a dirty viewfinder and together with manually focussing at 200mm, those panning shots were going to be a challenge.

This one of Daniel Ricciardo was only one of very view panning shots taken, as there were other uses for the long lens.

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Daniel Ricciardo.  Legend.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull pit

 

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Stylish Spectator
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Stand G – seats remaining

So some nice snaps to take home from a great weekend.  I’d a lot more time to enjoy the event, no worries about batteries needing charged and the £1 film rolls held up well.  If I’m in the press area for a County Down Racing club meet or pitchside at Crusaders v Glentoran in the Irish League, then it’s full digital and the big lens.  Otherwise, I’ll enjoy being a punter with some old gear.

Films developed at photo-express.co.uk
Scanned on Epson V370

Ho Chi Minh City

me and students
One of these Vietnamese students is a bald middle aged Irish bloke. Can you spot him?

6 days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Or Saigon as everyone still seems to call it.
And it’s shorter to say.  And type.
It was my first visit to Vietnam and won’t be my last.  Very friendly people, great food and yoga and fitness in the public parks with pensioners at 6am.   It’s hot, noisy but fun.  And a delight to photograph.

Kit:  Canon 5D, 50mm 85mm and 70-300mm lenses

Markets

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This girl was intent on selling me a hat.  She succeeded.
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Market seller, Mekong river
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Fish Heads.

Traffic
Definite motorcycle culture here. When crossing the road it should be noted that traffic never stops,  it just seems to avoid hitting you. There is a definite knack to crossing roads – I just always got close to a local. Seemed to work.

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Lights, lanes and yellow boxes seem so… European
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The last parking space in Saigon
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More Motorcycles
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Family Moped

Messin’ on the Mekong

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The Lonesome Boatman
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My boat lady
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View from the river

Nice Vietnamese People

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A Quality Smile
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Folk Musician
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Buy some food and ask nicely for a photo
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Coffee Shop Sad Alien

 

Also – when in Asia, take a selfie.
selfie

More photos on the Flickr.