Saturday, January 7, 2012

Myanmar......Minimalist Part 2

Traveling Light in Myanmar Part 2

Hey fellow travel photographers, welcome to part 2 of this blog on my recent trip to Myanmar with Singapore Trekkers. As you will recall, I decided to go minimalist for this trip and carried only a Nikon V1 with the two lens kit (10-30 & 30-110), a Manfrotto Pocket Tripod and a   tiny Manfrotto Led lightpanel that also doubled as a torch. 

Here's a pretty poor shot of the full kit but it gives you  good idea of how light and compact this full set up is.

I mentioned in the previous post some mods that i would consider essential if you are going to do any serious traveling with this camera. Firstly, its a good idea to stick some gaffer tape over the grip at the right hand side to assist handling when it gets humid and damp, I also took the opportunity to make the camera more discrete by covering the somewhat cheesy V1 logo. Secondly, my experience of traveling with cameras is that anything that can detach, will detach, fall off and get lost. This applies to expensive so called pro gear as well. Do yourself a favor and put some tape over the flash cover or it wont last long. 

Finally, if you don't want to shoot video, set the control dial to the still image setting and get some tape on it to hold it in place. This is a major design flaw for a travel cam and the dial will change on you at the worst of moments.

These mods are not pretty but they are highly functional and they also make the camera look very inoffensive and discrete, ideal for stealthy shooting. My only other setup comment would be to set the ISO to auto with a limit of 3200. the only time you need to watch out on this is if you have subject movement when you need to control the shutter rather than let the camera set it.

In addition to the V1, I also took a Lumix G3 that came late as a Xmas gift on this trip. I had bought a Samyang 7.5 mm Fisheye for the enclosed temple and pagoda situations that I knew would crop up in Myanmar. This is a very easy lens to use and I found it could be left set on infinity focus and used across the range of apertures to control the exposure. This is of course a manual lens and therefore its best to set the camera to manual as well and, as I said, control the exposure through aperture selection. I found that the lens delivered some very nice shots and here are a few examples of how versatile this kind of somewhat specialist lens can be:

 The exaggerated perspective of these lenses can be very tricky to control, however, I found that my 'get in close' normal shooting style worked very well for this combo.

This is particularly clear in the above shot which, although pretty cliched, is still very effective and creates an interesting perspective.

It's also important to retain symmetry wherever possible and keep your subject centered in the frame to avoid distortion. To be honest, although versatile, the effects can become a bit tedious so use sparingly and exploit situations where no other lens could really create the effect you are looking for.

Enough on the G3, Samyang set up, let's get back to the main point of the post, the Nikon V1 travel kit. I mentioned the Manfrotto Led lightpanel that I took along and I think it's worth putting it quickly into perspective. Let's be clear, this is no flash substitute, its merely an emergency fill light and a damn useful torch!!! It works off a single AAA battery and weighs nothing. Here are two examples where I had no shot and the little bit of light from the Manfrotto at least gave me something usable.

Far from fantastic photos I know, but at least I have something semi-decent and these kids were so delightfully polite and friendly that I wanted to have a shot that I could print for them on my next visit.

Notice the catchlight is a bit too pinpoint to be useful so be careful when you use it. To be honest, I would recommend buying the next size up which, although more bulky and requiring more battery power, would be ultimately more usable.

White Balance on the V1

It's pretty common in travel photography that you start very early to catch sunrise, then finish the day with a nice sunset location. With this in mind its worth considering setting the white balance to shade for these situations. Although this can easily be adjusted in Lightroom or processing, I personally like to make the photograph as complete as I can at the point of creation and for that reason I like to see how the image looks when I take it. I set the white balance to shade for these two shots which were taken at sunset.

The warming effect is evident and gives the images a very nice feel. I particularly like the golden glow in the above shot, this is gives the shot a nice golden look which is still clean and not exaggerated. The sunset below is by way of comparison very rich and much deeper in color tone, still a very nice effect though and it worked very nicely with the wispy grass.

Well, that's it for this part 2 Myanmar post, I will have some more thoughts on the V1 and more detail on good locations to visit if you are going to Myanmar. I am happy to answer any questions on these images from a location or technical viewpoint, just pop me a note or leave a comment.




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