Archive for the water buffalo Category

Tanzania – wonderful wildlife safaris

Posted in Acratech, Africa, African Safari, Benro, better my photography, Birding, Birds, BlackRapid, Canon, Cheetahs, Columbia sportswear, elephants, Filters, how to photography, Hyenas, Induro, Jeff Cable, Kaenon, Lake Manyara, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Light, lions, Marketing, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Crater, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Serengeti, Sigma, Tamron, Tanzania, Tarangire National Park, Tarangire NP, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, warthog, water buffalo, waterbucks, wide-angle, wide-angle lens, zebra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2017 by mmphototours
_E7A0993 Elephant under the Acacia B&W web ready

Elephant rendered in B&W – Canon 5D Mark III, f/11, 1/320, ISO 200, 35mm

_O5A1869 Lioness on a tree1 web ready.jpg

Lioness resting on a fallen tree – Canon 7D Mark II, f/4.5, 1/1000, ISO 2000, 74mm handheld in very low light right before sundown with thick cloud cover

Every year M&M ventures to Tanzania in January and sometimes in August to witness two of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.  In January I call it the reverse migration when wildlife returns to Tanzania from Kenya.  This is the calving season for many of the hoofed animals – zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, impala, and more.  It makes for great predator action.  In August we venture over again for the better known Great Migration and river crossing you have all heard about and seen images from many different sources.  This is when the migration leaves Tanzania for Kenya and the better grass across the border.  This post is meant to share just a few comments about Tanzania and several images from recent M&M trips.

Most of trips to Tanzania are all-inclusive – RT economy air from certain US gateway cities, all meals, all lodging, all ground transport, all park fees, world-class driver/guides, and more.  We usually fly through Amsterdam and then into Kilimanjaro International Airport just outside Arusha, Tanzania.

During most trips we visit the following areas – Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and then spend as much time as possible in the Ndutu area, & Serengeti National Park.  Each area gives us a different view of the wildlife and the migration.  They also afford their own benefits and scenes for the wildlife photography we all desire.

We head to Tarangire for a few reasons – resident wildlife and the elephants.  The park has solid numbers of resident wildlife anytime of year.  This gives us a quick warm-up for what we’ll experience on the rest of the trip.  The Ngorongoro Crater needs no words.  With one of the world’s most dense resident wildlife populations it is hard not to see amazing wildlife or capture great images.  The crater offers one of the best wildlife experiences in all of Africa and certainly one of the top in Tanzania.  Ndutu is a region known for awesome wildlife year round.  The resident cats (lions, leopards, cheetah, and more) are some of my favorites here but there are also elephant, herds of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, and more.  One of the pluses of a several day stay in Ndutu is the that off-road safari is allowed so you can track and get even closer to wildlife than in other areas.  Of course, we and our driver/guides maintain a respectable distance and give the wildlife the space they need to keep them comfortable.  The Serengeti is arguably the best National Park in all of Africa.  It offers excellent wildlife viewing year round and the space and numbers of animals in the park make every safari authentic and every safari participant yearning for more.

People often wonder what our lodging is like on safari.  Here I am going to give you links to the places we usually stay (our first picks) so you can decide for yourself.  We try to combine authentic safari experiences with several comfortable lodges/camps so our guests are comfortable, safe, and enjoy their time in Tanzania.  Of course, the food is always delicious…

We first stay at Rivertrees upon arrival – Rivertrees is set in a pleasant semi-rural location around 20km to the east of Arusha and is therefore convenient for Kilimanjaro International Airport.  It sits in beautiful informal gardens filled with large shady trees and is centered on a lovely old farmhouse.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/arusha/rivertrees-country-inn

Our next stop is one of two camps in Tarangire National Park.  Tarangire Safari Lodge – Tarangire is situated in an impressive hilltop position deep inside the reserve, with extensive views from camp of wildlife along the river. It is a simple facility, but with very nice well-intentioned owners.  Tarangire offers good quality dry season wildlife, notably superb elephant viewing Jun-Dec.  Additional activities include vehicle safari and balloon safari, plus some modest walking safari and night vehicle safari.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/tarangire-national-park/tarangire-safari-lodge  Or, we’ll use Tarangire Ndovu Camp depending on group makeup and numbers.  Ndovu is a medium specification mobile tented facility in a quiet location in the northeast of the reserve. It is a comfortable camp, with just six guest tents. Activities include daytime vehicle safari, with possible options for walking safari and night vehicle safari. Wildlife viewing is usually at its best during the dry season, Jun-Dec, particularly strong for elephants.  http://www.nasikiacamps.com/tarangire-ndovu-camp.html

Our next stop is the Ngorongoro Crater.  Here we always try to use Lemala Ngorongoro Camp.  Lemala is a high quality mobile tented camp set on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.  It includes a comfortable and nicely appointed mess and nine pleasant guest tents, with reliable owners and a reputation for a really good atmosphere amongst the camp staff.  The lodge is on the better northern side for weather and for early access into the crater.  Vehicle safari into the Ngorongoro Crater itself is the main activity, with walking and cultural activities also being possible.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/ngorongoro-crater/lemala-ngorongoro

We always try to book Lake Masek Tented Camp in Ndutu.  Lake Masek is a medium specification permanent tented lodge set in the important Ndutu area and is open year round, with the main migration often being in the area Nov/Apr.  The lodge offers a relatively high level of conventional comforts, especially compared with the mobile tented camps which are so numerous in this area during the migration season.  https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/serengeti-migration-area/lake-masek-tented-camp  Another option we have on hold often is Kubu Kubu Tented Camp.  Kubu Kubu is Situated on a gentle hillside with broad views of the Central Serengeti area and is a medium specification permanent tented camp.  It is centered on a large circular structure which contains the lounge and dining areas, leading out to a large swimming pool.  Guest accommodation is in a total of 25 spacious tents on raised platforms and with great views, which are suitable for up to five people, making this place a big favorite for families and camera clubs.  Activities are centered on vehicle safari, with the area offering very solid wildlife viewing year round, notably with incredible predator sightings.  The migration usually passes through May-Jun and Nov-Dec.  http://www.africatravelresource.com/kubu-kubu-tented-camp/

Depending on the time of year and camp availability we’ll use one of two of three camps in The Serengeti.  We always like to give folks the experience of a true “roughing it” camp so we use Ronjo Camp.  Ronjo is a medium specification mobile tented camp set in a relatively quiet location in Central Serengeti.  It offers an authentic safari experience, with animals often passing through camp. The camp has a pleasant canvas mess and around sixteen reasonably comfortable guest tents.  It is a closed access camp, which means it does not accept vehicles from other operators, which can lead to a much more intimate atmosphere.  http://www.africatravelresource.com/ronjo-camp/  After a couple of nights at Ronjo we’ll move our guests to one of two more upscale camps – Dunia Camp or Kaskaz Camp.  Dunia is a high specification mobile tented camp is in a relatively quiet location in Central Serengeti.  It offers an authentic safari experience, with animals often passing through camp.  The camp has a lovely canvas mess and around eight guest tents. It is elegantly presented and genially hosted.  Activities are centered on vehicle safari, with the area offering very solid wildlife viewing year round with incredible predator sightings, especially Jul-Oct.  The migration usually passes through May-Jun and Nov-Dec. https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/serengeti-migration-area/dunia-camp  Kaskaz is a small and relatively upmarket mobile tented camp with eight guest tents .  Kaskaz offers style and grace in the northern Serengeti – we use this camp for the August Great Migration safari.  http://www.nasikiacamps.com/Kaskaz-Mara-Camp.html

We cap every trip off with a stay at Gibbs Farm (when available and we book far enough in advance.  This place is an oasis after a safari and bring a level of comfort and peace that unrivaled in Tanzania.  Gibbs Farm has been voted Best Safari Hotel in Africa in the past.  Gibb’s Farm imparts a sense of well-being, tranquility and history—deeply rooted in African culture and community—in a warm, rustic luxury environment.  A peaceful sanctuary to rejuvenate the senses while on safari in Tanzania, the farm features cozy, well-appointed cottages, breath-taking scenery and wildlife and unique cultural activities that allow you to fully experience the rhythms and beauty of the farm, community and nature.  http://www.gibbsfarm.com/

Hope you have enjoyed our little piece on our Tanzania adventures.  We’d love to host you on one of our Tanzanian safaris sometime soon.  We have tours coming up in August 2017 that has 2 spots available, one in January 2018 that still has multiple spots open, one in August 2018 that has multiple spots open, and back-to-back luxury trips scheduled for January & February 2019 with guest pro Jeff Cable.

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Cambodia: Ancient Temples, Floating Villages

Posted in 1, Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Fashion Photography, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, HDR, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Indochina, Laos, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Monks, National Geographic, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Sigma, street food, Ta Prohm, Tamron, Terraced rice paddies, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens on October 25, 2013 by mmphototours

As we move to Cambodia, the group gets immediately immersed in the life of the local folk on the floating villages of Tonle Sap.  These hearty people have built their entire existence around fishing from the lake.  Their homes either float or are built on stilts and they even keep a supply of regular farm livestock for dietary variety in floating pens as well.  Here are a few examples of the daily activity on the lake.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

One of our guests Carolyn gave each child a small ring as a gift and it helped us get  wide smiles that were great to photograph.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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   Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

On the tour, we cover the floating village experience in two days because our guests love it so much.  There is so much to shoot and the lake is very large so we visit several locations to get the best shots.

These two children were out practicing their seamanship near the shore of the lake at their home.  They become comfortable with water life from a very young age and quickly become expert at catching fish or shrimp and drying it for long-term storage.  Cooking is done on small fires inside metal containers inside the house.  They want smoke from the fire to fill the house because the smoke treats the thatch walls and roof so bugs will not eat it or live in it.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

 Another awesome part of Cambodia that we visit is the temples at the Angkor complex.  These shots are from Angkor Wat.  The first one was an in-camera HDR shot on a Canon 5D MKIII.   The results are truly amazing.  The shot needs no post processing and looks this good.  Give yours a try if you can.

155B3594Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This costume is prevalent in Thailand and Cambodia because of their similar heritage.  It was shot in low light so the ISO needed to be higher to capture a clear image but as you can see the detail in the shot is still good.  This was a great place for our guests to practice their low light skills and have an excellent meal too.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This man was in charge of bailing while his group rode in to town from their floating village.  They make occasional trips like these to get supplies and to buy livestock.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

At Ta Prohm, old trees have overgrown much of the temple site.  It makes for fantastic pictures.  Every year, this area has become more commercial and more boardwalks are erected.  If you want to see this stunning area in it’s original state, you should make the journey as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the more that will be “fixed” for tourists and the less photogenic it will be.  This is one reason we offer this trip every year and encourage others to go soon.

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Many people have seen Monks in this region.  How many have seen female monks though?  We took our guests to this village where predominantly female monks gathered for their morning meal.  It’s a unique shooting opportunity for all our guests.   These female monks wear white gowns rather than the traditional saffron color wraps common to male monks.

155B5198Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This man was working to restore a part of the female monks village that was damaged.  He liked seeing the camera display with his picture on it and he posed for more pictures.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,  Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We visited a local market where folks can buy anything from clothing to fresh produce to cooked meals.  One of our guests Hal tried the fried grasshopper and said it was good.  “Like buttered popcorn” he said.  You can get great photos when you interact with the locals doing their daily work.  Here are some shots of the market.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Do any of you who have gone with M&M Photo tours on this trip recognize this face?  Hint: local lady, eats grasshoppers with us, speaks fantastic English, fits in a suitcase… She’s on Facebook if you want to look.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Making noodles at the market.  Great skill too.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

155B5699Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express  

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8,Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This trip is all highlights.  As you can see from this and the previous 3 posts there are more photo opportunities per minute than just about anywhere in the world.  There is so much to shoot that some guests have chosen to do the trip twice just to get the great shots they were missing while getting a great shot.  You almost need 360 degree lenses to get it all.  On average, guests shoot at least 10,000 shots on the trip and most shoot many more.  Space is limited because of its popularity but remember that we also offer private tours.  If you are longing to see Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, give us a call and whether on a private group or a regular tour, we will make it happen!

Good Morning Vietnam

Posted in 1, Angkor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, caves, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, H'Mong, HDR, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Indochina, Laos, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Monks, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Ta Prohm, Terra Cotta, Terraced rice paddies, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens on October 20, 2013 by mmphototours

After an awesome shoot in Laos, our group moved to Vietnam to continue our frame-making joyous journey.  This land is full of great places to shoot including terraced rice paddies, hill tribe folk, Ha Long Bay, and the Tay Ninh region.  But this first shot comes from a tribe near Sapa.  These ornate headdresses confirm tribal status and make for some great photos

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/4, ISO 400, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The Sapa region is one of the unspoiled treasures in Vietnam.  Only a few options to get there but the journey is a must if you want to see village life and capture it for yourself.  This Lady was instructing her grand-daughter when we arrived.  She gave us a quick tour of her place and was very proud of her new sewing machine.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/500, f/4.5, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

You have heard of bringing home the bacon?  This is how you bring home the poultry… on your scooter!  These birds are still alive, bought at market, then taken home to the family farm.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/9, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This family was making corn wine in a giant indoor still.  Grandma was in charge of the kitchen and supervised the whole operation.  Children and grand children all do their part.  No sampling for our group, but the family did offer.  Great folk who are generous to even the strangest of strangers.  It was dark in here, so it was great to have a fast and reliable lens to get this photo.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/80, f/4, ISO 2000, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

In Saigon while shooting some local pagodas, we came across this couple on their wedding day.  Their own local photographer was struggling so we decided to help them make some good memories.  We made sure the bride and groom got copies of these pictures for their happy day.  That makes two wedding shoots in one trip!  We also shot a funeral during our time here.  Always make the most of your opportunities and don’t be afraid to try these activities even if they are new to you.  It builds your photo skills and makes the locals happy too.

155B1691Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/100, f/22, ISO 1600, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

 While we were in Saigon, proceedings were underway for the funeral of a Great Vietnamese general and dignitaries from all over came to pay their respects.  This man was happy to show his pride in service

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/640, f/4.5, ISO 400, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

In Hanoi, (AKA Scooter City) you take your life into your own hands every time you enter the street.  Scooters are everywhere and no one obeys the traffic laws.  This officer was mad at our pedal taxi driver for trying to use a closed street.  It was a scary ride, but well worth the photos.  Be sure to roll some video if you take this ride.  it will be a guaranteed hit at your photo party later.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 640, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This photo was taken with a long exposure at Sward Lake in Hanoi.  A tripod was used to be sure to make the image steady and sharp.  When you travel, always take along a Benro Travel Angel or similar tripod that is lightweight and quick to set up.  It needs to fit on the side of your bag and in the overhead storage of the plane too.  The travel angel also converts to a monopod as well.  Fun shooting at night, but bring good equipment when you go.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/3, f/2.8, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, Clik Elite Pro Express, Benro Travel Angel convertible travel tripod

No trip to Vietnam is complete without seeing the Cao Dai temple.  You will never find a better place that begs photography and has culture saturated in every image.  This ceremony is open to the public (with limits).  The colors are fantastic and the sounds are awesome as well.  Video and stills are both a must here.  These shots also make great black and white images or sepia toned frames.  It is well worth the drive from Saigon.  If you do HDR (High Dynamic Range) at all, you will want to try some here.  The outside pic is “in-camera” HDR.  Also, bring a wide lens so you don’t miss the edges since the building is very large and long.

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/125, f/4, ISO 800, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/80, f/4.5, ISO 800, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 70mm, 1/320, f/16, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This is a great shot on the way to Ha Long Bay.  There are many fields and many workers to photograph.  Don’t forget to do as our guest pro Ron Wyatt says and “zoom with your feet”.  Most folk roll up in a car and snap one out the window.  Those lazy people didn’t get this shot.  You need to interact with the locals and they are happy to see what you are doing just as you see what they are doing.  Show them the images and they may even make a suggestion for a better picture.  Many have good English skills too.  Regardless, make an effort.  The two best things a photographer can do is go to the image (don’t shoot from afar) and to be patient for the right image (watch cars, background, subject blinking, etc.)

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/640, f/4, ISO 200, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This is the top of our boat in Ha Long Bay.  We stayed overnight on the boat and had private meals catered.  You can too!  Join us early for this trip though.  It always fills up fast because it is a true gem.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/250, f/10, ISO 200, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This is more Ha Long Bay.  The view is from a cave entrance that we visit.  Many of these mountain islands have monkeys on them as well and can make great wildlife shots.  The cave is huge and well worth the 225 stairs to visit.

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Canon 5D MK III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 1/60, f/5.6, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This guy was winning but likely due to his full concentration.  They did not even seem to notice four of us shooting them.  Some of the bystanders were coaching us for shots and coaching the players for a win.  Great culture shots of daily live in rural Vietnam.  This village has pottery makers, a clay water pipe business and several reburial casket makers.  Of course agriculture is a strong influence and some even deal in exotic meats.  These photos tell the story.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/50, f/5.6, ISO 640, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/200, f/6.3, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/120, f/4, ISO 640,  Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/640, f/4, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Villages also offer the opportunity to visit the local schools and see how the children learn.  This girl was the obvious champion in this game with equipment made from bicycle inner tubes cut to strips and tied together.

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/13, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

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Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, 1/320, f/13, ISO 640, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

From here, we take a short flight to Cambodia to see the famed Angkor complex and the floating villages of Siem Reap.  Stay tuned to see how the tour ends with a bang in this ancient wonderland.  Take extra memory cards on this part of the trip. You won’t want to miss out an any of these shots. The weather is hot, but the photography is even hotter!

Exploring Laos

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Fashion Photography, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, H'Mong, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Indochina, Laos, learn photography, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, Seoul, Sigma, Ta Prohm, Tamron, Terraced rice paddies, Travel, Travel Photography, Unique Photo, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens on October 11, 2013 by mmphototours

After meeting our guests and flying to Laos, we proceeded to take Luang Prabang  by photo storm.  The hotel was great, the food was excellent and the friendships will last a lifetime.  Below is a photo of the main source of transportation.  These friendly drivers will get you to the monks and back to your hotel with no effort or planning and with little cost.  Great entrepreneurs as well as some organized companies will show you this city of monks and temples.

 

 

Here is a rare sight… A monk smiling.  The picture below is from the sunrise procession of monks doing their alms.  They live on only what is given to them  and each day they gather food in their bowls that is given to them by the local villagers.  Some of our group including Dan P. joined in the giving as hundreds of monks passed by on their way to their temple.  This is truly a highlight of the trip.

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Later, these same monks gather to pray, to eat, and to learn.  We were able to get an exclusive look at this part of their day when they invited us to photograph this normally private time.  Some even remembered M&M from previous years and were happy to see us again.

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This is a shot of an elderly lady in a small village right on the Mekong river.  She was anxious to see our photos so we reviewed an entire memory card full of images.  She explained as best she could her relationship to each one we showed her and her joy at seeing them was rewarding for both of us.

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This image was from the same village.  Earlier, one of our guests Carolyn had been teaching all of the village kids some English and giving them a fun ring to wear.  This mother appreciated her efforts and rewarded us with great photo opportunity.  Great people and great time shooting as well.

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Does this look like where you ate lunch?  It does to me.  It’s on the Mekong as well near the China border.  We had fine linens and china to match the exquisite food prepared by the small restaurant next to these boats.  Our group loved the meal.

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Again we visit the monk procession early in the morning so we can be sure to get great shots.  Here are two more that show the pageantry and solemnity of the occasion.   You have to be there to get the full effect, but most who go end up shooting video as well on this just to be sure not to miss anything.

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These children waited for the monks to return so they could offer their alms with their mother and grandmother.  This is a way of life for them and it begins at sunrise every day.

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While photographing at one of the most beautiful waterfalls and reflecting pools in the world, we came across a group of folks experiencing the mineral-rich waters.  The woman below was from Argentina and was on vacation with her boyfriend and 2 other couples.  When she saw a group of photographers and one commented she should be a model, she decided to give it a go.  Our waterfall shoot became a model shoot and we got great images.  Of course the boyfriend wanted copies and so did she.  Always take the photo opportunities that are presented to you.  This was unexpected, but ended up being great photography.

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We continue on next to Vietnam and see the great Ha Long Bay, Hanoi, Sapa, and many other gems in this fascinating country.  Stay tuned for the next post.  As always, we will show you what we are doing, and what you will be seeing when you join us next year.  This trip usually fills, so let us know soon if you want us to hold a spot for you.

Vietnam – everyone should visit at least once in their life

Posted in better my photography, BlackRapid, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, H'Mong, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Indochina, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, street food, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by mmphototours

Ho Chi Minh Memorial

Canon 5d Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 35mm, 1/100, f/9, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Ho Chi Minh is the father of modern Vietnam.  His mausoleum is pictured above.  We make a few historical stops every year depending on timing and weather.  M&M visits Vietnam every year in October.  It is one of our most popular trips every year.  Through this post we hope to share a few thoughts, info, and images that will inspire you to visit and enjoy what we enjoy.

The Vietnam you may picture in your mind is different from what you will see when you visit.  Yes, there is a lot of progress to be made here and there has been a ton of progress in the last 40 years.  The people work hard, there are millions of scooters and 50cc motorbikes, and what awaits you photographically is a true wonder.  Let’s first learn a bit about the country.

Chinese writing at Hanoi Pagoda

Canon 5d Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/100, f/5, ISO 2000, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The history of Vietnam goes back thousands of years – archaeological findings showing human settlements as far back as around half a million years ago and a cultural history of over 20,000 years.  The history of the country has always been tied to conflict both internally and with foreign powers.  In about 111 B.C. the Chinese Han dynasty conquered northern Vietnam’s Red River Delta and the ancestors of today’s Vietnamese.  Chinese dynasties ruled Vietnam for the next 1,000 years, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture.  In 939 AD, Vietnam achieved independence under a native dynasty.  After 1471, when Vietnam conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam, the Vietnamese moved gradually southward, finally reaching the rich Mekong Delta, encountering Cham and Cambodians.  While Vietnam’s emperors reigned ineffectually, powerful northern and southern families fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Watering the fields in Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 100, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Most westerners know of the conquest of Vietnam by France which began in 1858 and completed by 1884.  It became part of French Indochina in 1887.  Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh.  Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South.  US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government.  In January 1969, the United States, governments of South and North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong met for the first session of peace talks in Paris, France.  These talks, which began with much hope, moved slowly.  They finally concluded with the signing of a peace agreement, the Paris Accords, on January 27, 1973.  As a result, the south was broken into a patchwork of zones controlled by the South Vietnamese Government and the Viet Cong.  The United States withdrew its forces, although U.S. military advisers remained.  In 1975 North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule.  Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals – many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants – and growing international isolation.

Weathered old man and beard

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/400, f/5, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries.  The Communist leaders, however, maintain control on political expression and have resisted outside calls to improve human rights.  The country continues to experience small-scale protests from various groups – the vast majority connected to land-use issues, calls for increased political space, and the lack of equitable mechanisms for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also held protests looking for more rights and involvement in government.

Sapa market lady

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/500, f/5, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We spend a lot of time photographing the people and their lives while in Vietnam.  They are so kind and patient with us and they appreciate the time we share with them.  We also contribute to their local economy by staying local, eating local and buying small gifts for family and friends back home.  The Vietnamese are working hard to build their lives and their country.  Tradition and family remain important to them in every region and you often find extended families living together and taking care of each other.

Kids in Sapa Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/1600, f/4.5, ISO 400, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Ceramic casket maker in Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 1250, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The woman above is one of my recent favorite images I’ve captured in rural Vietnam.  We visit a small pottery village every year and photograph and experience the lifestyles of the people.  This woman was painting ceramic reburial caskets – a local tradition for their dead.  Her eyes are so expressive.  The image below is her finished product – off to market it goes.  She painstakingly hand-painted every single one of the caskets you see.

Reburial caskets in Vietnam

Canon 5d Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 70mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 1250, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The last shot we want to share in this post is from the hills outside Sapa, Vietnam.  We get off the beaten path and visit several small local ethnic villages.  We are always greeted by children practicing their English (yes, they are all great salespeople) and the images we capture often show how happy kids are here.  This little guy was so happy to have scored two bottles of water from our driver and he was marching off with his troops to enjoy his spoils.  It was simply an awesome experience to witness a child so happy over a small thing.  The event brought a few of our guests to tears and they ran over to Mike G. planting kisses on his cheek to thank him and M&M for bringing them such an awesome experience – both photographically and life lesson wise.  As we say at M&M – “You don’t just take a photograph, you experience it.”

Marching with my water

Canon 5d Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/320, f/8, ISO 800, Lexar Professional 600X Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We hope you enjoyed the post.  Feel free to share it with your friends.  We look forward to hosting you all on an M&M Photo Tour soon.

Indochina 2012 tickler

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, H'Mong, Hill Tribes, Hill Tribes Vietnam, how to photography, Indochina, Laos, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, Monks, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, rice paddies, Ron Wyatt, Sapa, Sapa Vietnam, street food, Ta Prohm, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Vietnam, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2012 by mmphototours

Canon 5DMKIII, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 60mm, 1/400, f/8, ISO 800, Tiffen Digital HT Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The above image is titled “6 Faces” and is from The Bayon in Angkor Thom in Cambodia.

We visit Indochina (Laos, Vietnam, & Cambodia) every October.  This is one of the best times to visit the region because the rainy season has just finished, the heat is not too oppressive, and the tourist rush has not hit yet.  We love the region and this trip is ALWAYS one of our highest rated tours annually.

In this brief post we just want to give you a peek of what is to come in our upcoming posts about the trip.  We’ll Blog about our visit to each country and share our images and trip stories with you.  Hope you look forward to 3 great posts and some compelling stories to go along with the images.  To quote one of our happy guests this year “I have literally never seen anything like this before!  It was a life changing trip, to say the least.  Mike Gulbraa thanks again for a truly amazing experience!  M&M Photo Tours really delivered in every way.” A. Tompkins NY, USA

Laos – is all about the people and the simple but happy life they lead.  The first image below is of the Monks of Luang Prabang collecting Alms early in the morning and poor and/or orphaned children kneeling “asking” the Monks to show mercy on them by sharing a small portion of what they collect:

Canon 5DMKIII, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 104mm, 1/10, f/22, ISO 1600 (handheld in very low light), BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We next went to Vietnam and spent a wonderful week in country and came away with some awesome memories and images.  The first image here is of a little girl in a market in the hills near the Chinese border a few hours away from Sapa.  Colorful and such a simple, innocent look.  The eyes and innocent face make the image.

Canon 5DMKIII, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 200mm, 1/64, f/4.5, ISO 400 (handheld), BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This next image illustrates that the rice harvest n Vietnam is still done mainly by hand by many people.  This woman took a break to catch her breath as I fired away trying to capture the essence of her work.  The scythe in her hand, the bunch of fresh-cut rice, her clothes to protect her from the sun, and the vast rice field surrounding her tell us a story and what her task is.

  Canon 5DMKIII, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 137mm, 1/160, f/9, ISO 200, Tiffen Digital HT Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

The highlight of the trip each year is our visit to Cambodia.  Don’t get me wrong, Laos and Vietnam are awesome.  There just seems to be an extra something about our visits to Cambodia and the experiences and images we come away with each year.  Case in point – the floating villages outside Siem Reap always impress our guests and we always see something new.

Canon 5DMKIII, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 70mm, 1/1600, f/5, ISO 800, Tiffen Digital HT Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

And then there is always the allure and mystery of the Angkor complex temples like Ta Prohm where the jungle battles the man-made edifices and the power of Mother Nature is evident in the massive roots entangling and swallowing up many sections of the temple.

Canon PowerShot G15 @ 35mm, 1/60, f/2.8, ISO 80, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We hope this post gets your attention and you’ll look forward to the following posts about our visits to the three countries in the coming weeks.  Thanks for following us and letting us share our experiences and images with you.

China September 1-14, 2012 Day 9

Posted in Beijing, better my photography, BlackRapid, Canon, caves, caves in China, caves near Guilin China, China, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Great Wall, Great Wall of China, Hall of Heavenly Prayer, how to photography, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, Li River, Light, Long Sheng, Longsheng, Ming Tombs, Old Town Shanghai, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Reed Flute Cave, rice paddies, rice paddies China, Ron Wyatt, Shanghai, street food, street food in china, street vendors in china, Temple of Heaven, Terra Cotta, Terra Cotta Warriors, Terraced rice paddies, Terracotta Warriors, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, water buffalo, wide-angle, wide-angle lens, Xi'an, Xian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2012 by mmphototours

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/160, f/4.5, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Today we wandered Shanghai.  Shanghai is the youthful playground of China.  Many Chinese will tell you that ‘If Beijing is a school then Shanghai is a playground.’  The youthful vibrance and the cleaner, metropolitan vibe of Shanghai is a great way to end any journey through China.  Roads are not as congested as Beijing and the streets are cleaner.  The people of Shanghai are also more open than most in Beijing.  I am sure it has something to do with the history of the city.

The above image is just one example of the youth of Shanghai.  This couple was just off The Bund taking their engagement pictures when we strolled by.  Of course, Ron Wyatt was all pumped as he shoots many corporate/celebrity portraits and knows how to work a scene.  It took a bit but the group joined in and we fired off several frames while they posed for their photographer who was kneeling just below me.  No worries, the local photographer was happy to be working with other pros and was extremely grateful, as was the couple, that we gave them our cards and showed them our images on the LCD.  As requested, they E-mailed me and I sent them copies of all the images I took.  This has never happened with anyone in Beijing.

On our trips it is encounters like this that help us connect with locals.  Our motto at M&M is “You don’t just take a photography, you experience it.”  Connecting with locals, sharing with them, getting them to open up and show us their homes, work, and person are all key to bringing home awesome, relaxed images of people.  Photography is one of the best ways to bridge cultures and communication gaps.  At M&M we do not avoid interacting with locals.  We encourage our guests to ask questions, smile, hand out cards, show their LCD after capturing an image, and most importantly capturing locals in a natural setting and pose.

We spent about 2 hours walking through Old Town Shanghai.  This is a great area to get a feel for what people in this area live like in Shanghai.  The homes are small and crammed into a small area that has been preserved to keep the classic heritage of Shanghai from disappearing.  As we wandered a side street this old man was sitting outside his door and watched intently as we fired away at something else on the street.  When I playfully pointed my lens at him he smiled and struck this pose:

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 800, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

As I showed him the LCD of the above shot he stood and waved me over to his door and showed me his kitchen.  Our local guide told me the man was born in and has lived in this same house more than 75 years and was happy that he and his wife have running water in their kitchen.  It was further explained to me that locals are very protective of their water and spigots.  I guess water theft is an issue here.  His kitchen:

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/40 (handheld no flash), f/4, ISO 2500, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

As we walked a little further we came upon another home and the woman of the house was washing dishes and started “talking” to us.  She told us she was happy to see us again and that her family had lived in the area for over 100 years.  She has lived in the same house since birth and would not want to live anywhere else.  All while doing her dishes.  I captured this shot of her:

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 45mm, 1/80 (handheld no flash), f/4, ISO 2500, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We spent our evening at an acrobatic show.  Was able to get a few shots during the show.  I put the Mark III through more low light high ISO tests.  Once again I was happy.

Canon 5D MK III, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 OS @ 70mm, 1/400, f/4, ISO 2000, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

Hope you are enjoying the Blog.  Shortly, you’ll be reading posts about our Indochina trip which departs in less than 36 hours.  The entire region – China, Indochina, and all the surrounding countries are photographically rich and I can’t wait to see what I’ll shot the next time out.  Hope to have you join us.  If you have questions about any of our trips shoot us a note at info@mmphototours,com, mikeg@mmphototours.com, or kenw@mmphototours.com and we’ll get right back to you with an answer and details.