My morning and afternoon commute to and from work.


OK, I know I’ve been crowing about the joys of being retired, but I got offered a job that seemed promising,

and so I’m back teaching at a University. This week we move into our new apartment, which is in a vast, mostly vacant apartment complex called University View Apartments. The Universities they view are all housed in a complex called “Academic City, which is directly across from our building. Just cross twenty acres of sand and there you are. Of course, if I were to stumble and fall, I might be  a bundle of bleached bones before anyone discovered me, as I’m the only person who walks to work in this area.

Dubai, the Polar Opposite of Thailand


In Thailand, women are everywhere. They’re more visible than men. I don’t know what the men are up to, maybe they’re home drinking or taking care of the kids, but women are highly visible. Here, men outnumber women ten to one. The metro train has a special car for women, and in that car, men are not allowed, though women can be in the men’s car. The bus has a special section for women. Quite often, women are veiled in public, and dressed in black from head to toe, with only a little window for the eyes. Sometimes that’s not even there, and they have to see through the fabric.

In Chiang Mai, I rode a motor scooter or bicycle to get around. Here, it’s like living in Texas. You have to drive or be driven everywhere. There is mass transit, but it only works for a small section of the city .Unfortunately, nothing in my life here corresponds to that section. So we’ll be buying a car as soon as we get a permanent residency visa.

Prices here are about the same as in the States for most things, which means they’re about three to five times higher than in Thailand.

So Thailand is a great place to live on social security retirement, and this might be a great place to live if you want to make money. I don’t know. Jury’s still out on that one.

If Renoir were alive he could paint them


But I’ll just take a picture with my new camera, a very impressive digital pro model, the Nikon D7000. Hope I don’t lose it. It’s so big and heavy compared to the little point and shoots I’m used to that I had to devote a special bag to carry it. And I have to attach the lens to the body each time. It’s a major undertaking compared to what I’ve been used to! But the results are worth it. 

Hello, Kitty!


What’s the deal with Asian female infantile styles?Here, lots of grown women wear little girl clothes. I live near Chiang Mai University, and daily I see women in what look like little girl dresses from the 1940’s, riding on Scoopi Scooters that are detailed with cartoon bears, kittens. I don’t get it. It makes western men nervous.  Most of us have been strongly conditioned not to find children sexually attractive. Maybe the women aren’t trying to be attractive to men. Maybe the opposite. I dunno.

You Ain’t Seen Crowded Until…


Those of us from the States experience extreme crowding only at athletic events or rock concerts. The shot below was taken in Bangkok’s Chinatown, on a Saturday afternoon. There were probably two hundred thousand people in the markets, which occupy about a half a square mile. Routinely, someone would drive a motorcycle through the crowd. There is a beggar who I’ve seen twice during my visits, who crawls on his stomach through the crowd, pushing a tin cup in front of him. If you ever thought you might have an anxiety attack and simply lose consciousness in a seemingly endless crowd, this is the place to find out. 

Three Little Girls


Up in the hills, wearing traditional dress from their ethnic group. I didn’t want to bother them and ask the name of their group. There are several. Most are refugees from Burma, who sort of shooed out anybody they didn’t want to deal with incorporating into their already multi-ethnic state, and sent them to live in refugee camps across the border, in Thailand. 

My Ideas on How to Take Better Pictures


LOVE TO TAKE THOSE PICTURES

I’ve been in love with photography ever since I was about twelve. It was then that my father allowed me unlimited access to the family Argus, and I began to snap 35 mm shots of the usual things that present themselves as subjects to photographers of twelve: family, neighbors, squirrels in trees. Film cost forty-nine cents a roll and developing eighty-nine. Since my allowance was fifty cents a week, I had the resources to shoot a roll every third week and still buy a candy bar or two.

To this day I remember the smell of the camera…a heady brew of the leather on its back and its intricate metal interior. It had no light meter, so I was forced to guess at f-stop and shutter speed. Through trial and error I got quite good at approximating the right amount of light onto the film.

Today, I am quite content to let my new Sony digital camera sweat the exposure readings. I rarely photograph squirrels today, but more often than not, it’s people who interest me as subjects. I find that I spend a lot more time photographing people than I do sunsets. It takes more nerve to photograph a person than a landscape, and the rewards are sporadic, but as in all photography, if you take a lot of pictures, you vastly increase your chances of taking a good one.

The number of shots taken separates rank amateurs from serious amateurs and professionals. Serious photographers take lots and lots of pictures, planning to discard most of them in favor of keeping a few choice ones. When handed a camera, non-photographers take a couple of pictures and then expect to be disappointed.

I buy two cameras a year. Yes, it’s an addiction, but a manageable one, for I can sell the older cameras  at a tolerable loss on eBay every time I want to buy a new one.  The pace of development in digital photography equals that of computers. Who wants to be stuck with a four-year old gizmo? My latest camera, which I bought for less than two hundred dollars, defocuses the background for portraits, making it seem like a much pricier single lens reflex. The lens is sharp as a Sicilian razor, and the resolution is so high it burdens my two-year old computer to process the images.

So what do most people want to see in a portrait? The eyes. Those windows of the soul must be in sharp focus, and lit. If you want to take really sharp pictures, use a tripod. You can buy one at your local Goodwill for six dollars. Camera shake is the biggest cause of so-so photos. Put your camera between an open window and your subject and make sure the background behind the subject is as dark as possible. Zoom in a little. Nobody looks good in a wide angle lens. The light coming in the window should be indirect. Direct sunlight will cause your subject to squint and your photograph to be over-exposed in all the wrong places. Remember, we want to be able to see eyes.

Take twenty photos for every one you expect to come out. Remember, there’s no penalty for trying too hard and you’re certainly not “wasting” anything. Even camera batteries are almost all rechargeable nowadays, so at worst you’re guilty of squandering a few electrons.

The most impressive pictures I’ve taken have been candid portraits, usually done when I’m holding the camera chest or waist-high and snapping as rapidly as the camera will allow. In a way I’m stealing images, without taking the time to develop relationships, but, heck, Henri Cartier Bresson made a career of it and we’re all the better for it.

Sometimes it takes travel to see beauty


The commonplace becomes too ordinary. You can’t see it with fresh eyes. Then you travel across the world and everything seems interesting, at least for a while.

One of the reasons it’s more rewarding to take pictures in tropical countries than in America is because there are more people outside. In America, unless it’s a special event everybody’s tucked inside their car or their house. With the exception of Manhattan, an athletic event or the State Fair, there’s nobody to photograph. That’s why so many beginning photographers snap pictures of bums passed out on park benches.

And why Facebook is full of pet pictures.