Archive for Ron Wyatt

Tuscany 2014

Posted in Baptistery Italy, Baptistery Pisa, BlackRapid, Brolio Castle, Canon, Chianti, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, David, Field of Miracles, Filters, Florence, Florence Bell Tower, Gelato, HDR, how to photography, Hunt's Photo & Video, Italy, Italy photography, Leaning Tower of Pisa, learn photography, Lenses, Lexar Digital Film, Light, Meleto Castle, Michelangelo, Michelangelo's David, Montepulciano, Olive Oil, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, Photography in Tuscany, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pienza, Pisa, Pisa Baptistery, Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Duomo, Pisa Field of Miracles, Pro Photographer, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Radda in Chianti, Ron Wyatt, San Donato, Tamron, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, Tuscan foods, Tuscan villa, Tuscany, Val d'Orcia, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2014 by mmphototours

Our annual trek through Tuscany in May of each year is always enjoyable, relaxing, and filled with excellent photography opportunities.  Once again this year we set up residence at our favorite villa outside of Arezzo and explored Tuscany from there.  Our group was small which allowed us flexibility to take the time we needed/wanted at each location.

Our hosts at the villa - Mirella & Stefano

Our hosts at the villa – Mirella & Stefano

No trip to Italy – let alone Tuscany is complete without awesome meals and awesome people to share them with.  There were plenty of meals to share and the group made for great company.  We ate like kings, shot like kings, slept like kings, and overall just had a wonderful trip and many great experiences during our two weeks in Italy.

We like to give ourselves assignments on or before each trip.  This trip was about handheld HDR and really testing the lenses, Canon 5D Mark III, and seeing if the image stabilization of the lenses would give us the stops we need to forgo a tripod at times.  We were happy with the result BUT have determined yet again that a tripod is always a good idea.

A little low light, high ISO work - Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 27mm, ISO 5000, 1/40, f/2.8, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media

A little low light, high ISO work – Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 27mm, ISO 5000, 1/40, f/2.8, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Several of the guests enjoyed the wine while we all enjoyed everything about the trip.  One of our favorite things and parts of this trip is the stained-glass we get to see – here are a few of our favorites from an old church in Montepulciano:

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/250, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/250, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 640, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 640, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We ventured to so many different parts of Tuscany during this trip that it is difficult to express which part we like most – fact of the matter is that we love them all or we would not go.  Landscapes, people, architecture, and food are some of the reasons we visit Italy – we photograph them all.  The next several shots are some of our favorites from this year’s trip:

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/640, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Chapel on The Hill – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 70-200 @ 200mm, 1/640, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 33mm, 1/640, f/9, ISO 1000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Grove of Cypress Trees – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 33mm, 1/640, f/9, ISO 1000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Pitigliano – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 44mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Florence – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 44mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Pisa - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Film, Clik Elite Pro Express

Pisa – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Film, Clik Elite Pro Express

San Antimo Abbey - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 200, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

San Antimo Abbey – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/250, f/8, ISO 200, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We also spend a few days in Rome and make a few stops outside of Tuscany while on this trip.  Here are a few of our favorites from those days in Orvieto and Rome:

The Orvieto Cathedral is my favorite in all of Italy - Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 18mm, 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

The Orvieto Cathedral is our favorite in all of Italy – Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35L @ 18mm, 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/200, f/22, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 24mm, 1/200, f/22, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome heading towards Vatican City - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/800, f/14, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Rome heading towards Vatican City – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 40mm, 1/800, f/14, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We even got to spend a Sunday afternoon at Vatican City and listened to Pope Francis deliver an address to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.  Did not understand a word but as we say at M&M “You don’t just take a photograph, you experience it!”  It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that anyone who goes to Rome should try and experience.  Wish I would have brought a longer lens – even left the 70-200 at the hotel as I chose to do this walk with just one lens.  Lesson learned?  Yes, carry your pack and gear at all times – even if you have been to a location MANY times before because you never know what will present itself.

We even got to see The Pope - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

We even got to see The Pope – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/8, ISO 800, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

After the Tuscany trip was complete I had a few days to myself in Rome and Venice while in transit to Croatia for my next group.  Here are a few shots from Venice:

Venice - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite pro Express

Venice – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/400, f/4.5, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite pro Express

Venice canal - Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Venice canal – Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 2000, handheld, BlackRapid Sport, Tiffen HT Circular Polarizer, Lexar Digital Media, Clik Elite Pro Express

Hope you enjoy the post.  Look forward to have some of you joining us in Italy next year – May 17-26, 2015.

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Introduction to Cambodia

Posted in Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom, better my photography, BlackRapid, Cambodia, Canon, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, Floating Villages, Floating Villages Cambodia, how to photography, Indochina, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, Light, Monks, Photo Competition, photo tips, photo tours, photo workshops, Photographer, Photography, photography skills, Photography tips, photography workshops, Pro Photography, Professional Photographer, Ta Prohm, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by mmphototours

Cambodia Map

One of our favorite places to visit on earth is Cambodia.  The people are so kind, the food delicious, the photography and history inspiring, and the ease and cost of travel in country are affordable to many.  We believe Cambodia is an under-appreciated photography and tourist destination and we work hard to expose as many people as possible to what the country has to offer.

Angkor Complex B&W Cambodia1

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/90, f/4, ISO 500, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Let us share a bit about Cambodia that will hopefully help you understand her history and plan to enjoy a visit.  Most Cambodians consider themselves Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its peak between the 10th and 13th centuries.  Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire, ushering in a long period of decline.  The king placed the country under French protection in 1863 and it became part of French Indochina in 1887.  Following the Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953.  In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns.  At least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot.  A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war.  UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government.  Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability.  The remaining elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999.  Some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders have been tried or are awaiting trial for crimes against humanity by a hybrid UN-Cambodian tribunal supported by international assistance. In October 2004, King Norodom SIHANOUK abdicated the throne and his son, Prince Norodom SIHAMONI, was selected to succeed him.  Local elections were held in Cambodia in April 2007, with little of the pre-election violence that preceded prior elections. National elections in July 2008 were relatively peaceful.  Cambodia is a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

Bayon2

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/15, f/8, ISO 100, Tiffen Grad ND, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Cambodians consist of 90% Khmer, 5% Vietnamese, 1% Chinese, and 4% other.  Religiously they are 96.4% Buddhist (the official State religion), 2.1% Muslim, 1.3% other religions, and 0.2% are unspecified.

Angkor Complex Monks Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 28mm, 1/60, f/4, ISO 2000, Tiffen Grad ND, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Since 2004, garments, construction, agriculture, and tourism have driven Cambodia’s growth. GDP climbed more than 6% per year between 2010 and 2012.  The 2012 per capita GDP for Cambodia was $2,400 – the 2012 USA GDP was $49,800. The garment industry currently employs more than 335,000 people and accounts for more than 75% of Cambodia’s total exports.  In 2005, oil deposits were found beneath Cambodia’s territorial waters, representing a potential revenue stream for the government, if commercial extraction becomes feasible.  Mining also is attracting some investor interest and the government has touted opportunities for mining bauxite, gold, iron and gems.  The tourism industry has continued to grow rapidly with foreign arrivals exceeding 2 million per year since 2007.  However, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and long-term economic development remains a daunting challenge, inhibited by corruption, limited educational opportunities, high income inequality, and poor job prospects.  Approximately 4 million people live on less than $1.25 per day and 37% of Cambodian children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. More than 50% of the population is less than 25 years old.  Much of the population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the countryside, which also lacks basic infrastructure.  The Cambodian government is working with bilateral and multilateral donors, including the World Bank and IMF, to address the country’s many pressing needs; more than 50% of the government budget comes from donor assistance.

Floating Village Family Homestead Back Door View- Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/60, f/6.7, ISO 250, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

The major economic challenge for Cambodia over the next decade will be fashioning an economic environment in which the private sector can create enough jobs to handle Cambodia’s demographic imbalance.

Learning the trade Floating Villages Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 OS @ 70mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 2000, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Each visit we make it is pleasing for us to see progress being made for the people of Cambodia.  International travelers from all over the world visit key sites and contribute to the local economies.  Unfortunately, large portions of revenues from the prized Angkor complex, one of the highest grossing tourist sites in the country, are sent to Vietnam as payment for their help in repelling the Khmer Rouge – an example of the saying that “Freedom is not free.”  Even with that we see Cambodia’s future as bright and on the rise.

Colorful homestead reflections Floating Villages Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 OS @ 147mm, 1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 800, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

We hope you’ll join us for our October 2013 visit to Cambodia.

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.

Laos – an introduction

Posted in better my photography, BlackRapid, Clik Elite, Columbia sportswear, Filters, H'Mong, Hill Tribes, 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, Ron Wyatt, street food, Tiffen, Travel, Travel Photography, wide-angle, wide-angle lens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2012 by mmphototours

We visit Laos every October.  It is the start of our annual Indochina tour where we also visit Vietnam, and finish the tour in Cambodia.  We are often asked why we visit Laos.  Not too many photo tours do.  The answer is simple.  Classic Indochina images, Monks, simple lifestyles, kind people, great food, and the opportunity to capture people in their natural setting doing things they do every day.  We also contribute to the tourism industry and through our images bring Laos to the world.  Our guests are pleasantly surprised after the visit and often state “I would have never imaged such great images could be captured here.” and “The monks and local people and markets are the highlights of the visit.”

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 82mm, 1/25 (handheld), f/4, ISO 5000, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen UV filter, Black Rapid Sport strap, Clik Elite Pro Express backpack

Let us tell you a bit about Laos – modern-day Laos is a little bit larger than the state of Utah and has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM.  For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos.  After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina.  The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand.  In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam.  A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988.  The country is landlocked and shares significant borders with Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east.

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/200 f/4, ISO 4000, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen UV filter, Black Rapid Sport strap, Clik Elite Pro Express backpack

The country consists of the following Ethnic groups: Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26%.  We spend a lot of our time photographing the Hmong and many minor ethnic groups that inhabit the hills and countryside.  From a religious perspective Laos is made up of the following: Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5%.  We also spend a lot of time photographing the monks of Laos and observing their daily rituals.  One of which is the daily procession of ‘Giving of The Alms’ where people line the streets to give food and other items to the Monks (and the poor children) to help them live.  It is an awesome expression of humility and peace.

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 35mm, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 400, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen UV filter, Black Rapid Sport strap, Clik Elite Pro Express backpack

The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986.  The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking – growth averaged 6% per year from 1988-2008 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997.  Lao’s growth exceeded 7% per year during 2008-11.  Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.  It has a rudimentary, but improving, road system, and limited external and internal land-line telecommunications.  Electricity is available in urban areas and in many rural districts.  Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, accounts for about 30% of GDP and 75% of total employment.  Economic growth has reduced official poverty rates from 46% in 1992 to 26% in 2010.  The economy has benefited from high foreign investment in hydro-power, mining, and construction.  Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004, and is taking steps required to join the World Trade Organization, such as reforming import licensing.  The GDP per capita was approximately $2800 in 2011 – as point of reference, in 2008 the US per capita GDP was approximately $48300.  Approximately 26% of Lao’s people live below the poverty line making Laos the world’s 49th poorest country.

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS @ 128mm, 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 1600, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen UV filter, Black Rapid Sport strap, Clik Elite Pro Express backpack

Why give you this background?  Simple – for all the hardships Laos may face her people are happy, kind, and open.  The country is beautiful and offers excellent photographic opportunities.  As we bring guests here every year we notice that growth is taking place.  We like to get off the beaten path and that is easy in Laos.  It is one of the few places we visit where we get to ride the national symbol – the elephant – through the jungle.

Canon PowerShot G15 @ 28mm, 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 160, Lexar Digital Film, Black Rapid Sport strap, Clik Elite Pro Express backpack

In addition, you come into contact with budding business people like this young girl who was such a gracious host as we visited her as she worked her loom in her village a couple of hours outside Luang Prabang along the Mekong River.  She sold several handmade scarfs to our group.

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 32mm, 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 400, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen UV filter, Black Rapid Sport strap, Clik Elite Pro Express backpack

A recent guest from New York state gave a group she was speaking to the following feedback on her trip with us: ” This is a PHOTO TOUR…not a sightseeing, shopping, strolling, relaxing tour.  You’re up early shooting vistas at dawn and asleep late after shooting the night markets…you’re racing to catch planes, buses and trains that take you to non touristy, out of the way areas, you will see things you NEVER imagined and you will come home with the unbelievable photographs to prove it!  If NOTHING is more important to you than capturing the images you want…then call M&M PHOTO TOURS and book your next amazing photographic adventure today!  You will NOT be sorry!  I HIGHLY recommend them!!”

We hope you’ll join us in October 2013 as we head to Laos again.  For details please visit http://www.mmphototours.com/Store/tabid/80/CategoryID/39/List/1/Level/a/ProductID/46/Default.aspx?SortField=ProductName%2cProductName the simplicity of life and the images you come away with will amaze you.

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.

China September 1-14, 2012 Day 8

Posted in Beijing, better my photography, BlackRapid, Buffalo, Canon, caves, caves in China, caves near Guilin China, Clik Elite, Filters, Great Wall, Great Wall of China, Hall of Heavenly Prayer, how to photography, learn photography, Lexar Digital Film, Li River, Long Sheng, Longsheng, Ming Tombs, 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, 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 9, 2012 by mmphototours

Today was a relaxed day that gave us a lot of free time.  We had some in the group that decided to sleep in, some that went out early and shot the morning activities of the locals, one who decided to take the morning off to edit images, and Ron & I that were out by 6 AM and shooting all day.

As those of you who follow M&M know that I (Mike G.) love to capture images of people working.  Hands, movement, and those images that portray the work and lifestyle of the people are my favorites.  An image that caught my eye this morning is the following image of this woman heading off to market with her vegetables.  Simple yet tells a story.

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/800, f/4, ISO 500, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We were still on the Li River so we ended the day with an interesting sunset through the humidity – it poured rain about 30 minutes earlier and left lot of water in the air – that played with the light and reflections and mountains in the distance.  This shot is what I came up with shooting through a cave-like opening along the river.

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Tiffen Grad ND filter, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

It is odd sometimes that you don’t realize that you are shooting a string of images with similar settings on your camera until you take a second and look – you should check your histogram and settings often.  However, I realized that based on what we were shooting all day it was a perfect day for me to put the Canon 5D Mark III through its paces for high ISO low light images AND to see how the image stabilization was working.  Like I said in an earlier post, I am not a Photoshop/editing guru.  I look forward to seeing what the images look like after editing the RAW file but for JPEGs I am impressed with what the Mark III was putting out.  I can tell you that the sole Nikon shooter on the trip was impressed with the Mark III as well.  Anyway, hope you enjoy the images.

I’ve decided to share a few images from our stop at The Reed Flute Cave – a dark cave that is beautifully lit to show the shapes and texture of the stone and formations.  No tripods allowed, too big for most flashes, and large enough to complicate composition.  The following images are all from this stop and show the capabilities of the Mark III (I purposefully kept my Depth of Field shallow).

This first shot is a reflection of the ceiling in an underground pool.  This scene is large and deep.  I think the Mark III sensor did a great job rendering all aspects of the scene.

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 35mm, 1/64, f/2.8, ISO 4000, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

This shot is in a huge area of the cave and challenged me with total area – width, height, depth and darkness.

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 25mm, 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 4000, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

I saved the “best” image from the cave for last.  Look closely – you’ll see layers, different colors, depth, and your eyes may even think they are seeing a 3D image here…what do you think?  Light and perspective are awesome tools aren’t they?  I saw the 3D image with my “naked” eyes before I tried to capture it with the Mark III.  It was a task as I had to be in just the right place to see with the sensor what my eyes had seen.  Interesting image with many elements to absorb.

Canon 5D MK III, Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 28mm, 1/20, f/2.8, ISO 4000, Lexar Digital Film, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express

We hope you are enjoying our journey through China.  We also hope you have a growing appreciation for what the country has to offer and that you’ll seriously consider joining us next year for our journey through The Middle Kingdom.