Northern Exposure: Chiang Rai – Wat Phra Kaew

entrance

Despite a general lack of any useful knowledge of or insights about Buddhism, visiting a temple is for me a great opportunity for some photography, a bit of peace and quiet and an experience of something extremely different from the normal day-to-day life in Belfast.

Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai is a great example of a temple complex that is extremely welcoming to tourists yet doesn’t seem to get many tourists.  Chiang Rai’s Blue Temple and the White Temple in particular are tourist hotspots but Wat Phra Kaew has lots to walk around, places to sit, have bit of meditation if that’s your thing and great to spend a few hours with the camera and not be rushed.

 

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Monk

 

 

 

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Pagoda

Those who were there for devotional reasons were ok with photos being taken – but it’s best to be discrete about it

 

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The original Green Buddah is now in the Grand Palace, Bangkok but originated here.  It has a replacement now.

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Temple interior

In the temple grounds there are a variety of drums and bells.  Some you can’t play, others you can have a go.

 

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non-beating drum
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Bells and Shadows
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Big Bell

 

 

And there is the usual, delighful literal translation to English.  I did.

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Wat Phra Kaew is about a 7 minute songthaew ride from the centre of you can walk in about 25 minutes.

Pictures taken on the Canon 6D and 28-90 lens

Northern Exposure – Saturday Night in Chiang Rai

Everywhere in Thailand has a night bazar, a night market of some description or a big weekend market.  In Chiang Rai they take it a bit further.  A large thoroughfare is closed off for the market, there is an multitude of stalls to buy just about anything, a selection of food to end the most austere of diets – and a large square for line dancing.  Thai line dancing.  There seemed to groups – organised hardcore dance classes in uniform, with clear lead dancers, as well as less formal social groups and the occasional Irish tourist.

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There’s food
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some drink
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a bit more food to go with your drink
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A post-food snack
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many choices of snack
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some shopping for knickers..
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and a snack if you’re hungry after the shopping

The main attraction for me other than the food is the dancing and music. The dancing goes on for hours, a live band – sort of Thai Schlager – do the music and the dancing is continuous – til late.

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This lot were a delight to watch and most agreeable for a photo.

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Lock up your husbands

As was Busker of the Night. Playing the cute card along with the music
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And of course – evidence of the photographer getting in the swing..

 

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Classic White Man Dancing..

Northern Exposure: Chiang Rai – The Blue Temple

I generally prefer black and white – it removes a feeling of clutter, great for showing contrast in a scene and it has that delightful separation from reality.  Occasionally, though, you encounter a scene that demands to be shot in colour.  In Chiang Rai there is Wat Rong Suea Ten – or The Blue Temple.  On a sunny day, there is nothing quite so blue as The Blue Temple.

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It is blue

As you can see, its predominant characteristic is its undoubted blueness.

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Maximum blueness

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Detail
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White outdoor Buddah

And once you get inside, there’s still blue. And some white. And people to add a bit of colour enhancement.

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Posing for Buddah – 1
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Posing for Buddah 2

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As with all religious sites, donations welcome

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As always when visiting temples, not all of us are Irish tourists runing around with cameras. Some are there for more spiritual reasons.

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Wat Rong Suea Ten is about 3.5km from the centre of Chiang Rai (the Bus station) and there are a variety of busses, taxis and songthaews.  We walked in the heat.  A lot of surrounding cafes were closed late afternoon and early evening (it closed at 6pm) but the light is so much better.

All shot on the Canon 6D and an old film era EOS lens 28-90 kit zoom.

The Gig Economy: Conscious & The Goodness

Most of my gig photography has been in local venues, usually small sweaty bars in the greater Belfast area.  In stark contrast to this I stumbled upon a free gig in the more picturesque and exotic location of the Singapore Esplanade Theatre on the Bay.  Performing in the Jazz in July concerts were Philippine jazz and funk band Conscious & The Goodness.  The band were happy for me to walk around shooting during the sunny afternoon soundcheck and then I was back for the post-sunset evening gig.  Quite the difference from death metal night at the Goat’s Toe pub in Bangor.

Afternoon soundcheck

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and once darkness fell…

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All shot on digital – the occasion, lighting and Singapore colour too risky to lose the moment for B&W film  – Canon 6D with 50mm and 70-300mm lenses

 

CHAMPIONES!!

It’s all about the winning!!

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Crusaders F.C. win their 3rd title in 4 seasons

It may one of the lower budget sports competitions in Europe, but Northern Ireland’s domestic football league – the NIFL Danske Bank Premiership – is as exciting as any.  I have the privilege of doing the matchday video camera for video analysis and YouTube channel highlights, as well as a bit of photography with Crusaders FC – a fan-owned club in north Belfast. 14 years after nearly going out of business, Crues are one of the top clubs in Ireland. On 28th April 2018, after a neck and neck chase to the title, Crusaders  pipped Coleraine FC to become winners of the Irish Premiership by winning away at Ballymena and also gaining lucrative entry to the qualifying stages of the UEFA Champions League.

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Manager Stephen Baxter interviewed live on BBC

Most of the players in the league are part-time professional, training 2 or 3 times per week while holding down full time jobs.  There is a strong sense of community within Irish football in midst of all the rivalries as the league competes with round the clock multi-platform coverage of the English Premier league and the other large European leagues.

These photos are of the post-match celebrations on winning the title – taken while also running around with the camcorder videoing the event..

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The final score – equal on points with Coleraine but on better goal difference going into the game, a win guaranteed the championship.
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Super-sub.  David Cushley (and daughter)  – Cush got the late goal which clinched the title.
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The winning squad with NIFL Confetti Gun Operator on the left
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Howard Beverland – one of the best defenders in the league, and possibly made of steel
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Club captain Colin Coates tells the BBC how it was won

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photo-bombing the BBC
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Sean Ward – can play anywhere.  A previous league winner with Linfield
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Brian “The Beast” Jensen.  He’s Danish.  Previously of Burnley fame, now a League winner.
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Matthew ‘Skimmer’ Snoddy.  A young player with his 3rd league winners medal
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From the backroom – coach Marc Wilson
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The club’s record goalscorer – Jordan Owens
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The glittering prizes for 2018  – The Gibson Cup league trophy (right) and the Co Antrim Shield
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Winner of the club and Northern Ireland player of the year awards – Gavin Whyte, with manager Stephen Baxter.  It’ll not be long before we see Gavin in the English league.

The great thing about football is that as the season ends – on a high or in disappointment – we get to do it all over again after the summer.

Kit:  Canon 6D, tweaked in Color Efex Pro pretending to be Portra 160

Contains Flash Photography

Every so often it’s good to do a studio shoot using a few flash heads.  I’ve nothing grand – a cobbled collection of eBay-sourced Interfit units with cheap backdrops and stands. It’s a basic setup with a soft-box facing the sitter and two units at 45 degrees on to the white cloth, then using a black backdrop with a soft-box and brolly two-light arrangement.

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the budget setup..

To make things interesting, the session with my good friend and singer/songwriter/guitarist Thomas, was to be captured on full-frame digital ( Canon 6D) and on 35mm black and white film (Kentmere 100) using mid 70’s basic manual camera, the Ricoh KR-5.  Without a flash meter, the plan was to get a setting on the 6D that looked ok, then set something similar on the Ricoh.  So 1/125 at f8 – then play about with the lights.

First up – some low key against the black backdrop,

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softbox, brolly fill and 85mm lens
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single light with soft-box

Then a white backdrop with the softbox straight on.

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key – no guitar
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and with guitar

Next up was a repeat of this lighting with the Ricoh. It’s a very basic but solidly built mechanical SLR. And it did ok

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tones ok  – but scanning a bit off round the face
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look forward to the darkroom print…
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getting there…
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35mm close up glory

As is often the case, scanning a low key image is a bit tricky  – the real test will be darkroom print – but the high keys portraits on the Ricoh were near the mark with the full frame Canon digital.

So a quick photo shoot to compare digital and 35mm black and white film.  Next will be to compare negative scanning with a darkroom print scan as well as an indepth look at using the Ricoh.

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.

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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.

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no manky pies or Bovril
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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.

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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