Adventures in Thailand: In the Jungle

What do you think of when you hear the word, “jungle”?

I think of a couple of different things. I think about The Jungle Book, with tigers and bears and Mowgli. I think about Tarzan and apes and wildcats. I think about density, heat, unknowns, and stars beyond the canopy.

After visiting Ao Luek Tai in Krabi, I think about huts, cats, mountains, mosquito netting, and adventure.

We stayed at this amazing AirBnB in Krabi, and I cannot recommend this place enough. Our host picked us up from the docks and drove us the 45 minutes to the place, which is a compound of huts. You sleep on the top level, and the bottom level just kinda has a changing room. Toilets are in a separate hut, and showers and sinks in another. And it’s in the jungle, which was super cool in its own way.

Minus the GIANT blue and pink centipede. Nope nope nope.

They had cats and kittens legit everywhere, and I love kitties, so that was awesome. One of the kittens went after the centipede, but then freaked out when it realized how big it was, and then ran away. Smart kitten.

The main spectacular thing was the view I woke up to the mornings I was there:

One afternoon, we went kayaking through a mangrove forest, and it was AWESOME. I wanted to take so many pictures, my cousin got on my case about not helping with the rowing, and we got stuck in the roots a couple of times because of it… Sorry Ashley, I love you!

The nature was stunning, and I could have spent more time in the area, making pictures and enjoying the peace and quiet. We also explored a cave, which is apparently famous in the area for some prehistoric cave drawings. It was super neat-o.

We also spent some time at a construction site– sounds not-fun, but stay with me. Our host has a friend who is building a new Buddhist temple, and they let us explore. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I mean, it’s not very everyday you visit an under-construction-holy-site. We oftentimes don’t even think of holy places as things that had to be built, even though they obviously had to have been, and there is this tension when walking around the space. I loved every second of it, but my favorite was the Buddhas wrapped up in cloth, waiting to be prayed to.

On our last morning, we visited a jungle pool… a natural, fresh-water pool in the jungle. No other way to describe it besides tell it like it is. There was a natural rock slide, and the water was refreshing and cool. It was a minor thing, but it was a lot of fun regardless. It kinda felt like I was in The Jungle Book, kinda felt like some terrifying snake would come slithering out of someplace and eat me, but y’know. Fun regardless.

If you’re going to southern Thailand and hitting up Ko Phi Phi and Phuket and the area, I recommend making time to go hang-out in the jungle. Just be sure to avoid the centipedes.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

Adventures in Thailand: Down South

The southern tip of Thailand is a beautiful place.

Our adventures began in Phuket, at Parong Beach. We stayed at a small hotel-like place, and I say like-place because it was only 3 rooms, and you had to walk through a Subway to get to it. And I mean Subway as in the sandwich shop, not trains, though that would be a different kind of strange.

Aside: someone actually left a bad review for this hotel BECAUSE you had to walk through a Subway. Like, person, seriously? That just adds stars to my review, because easy access to sandwiches is ALWAYS worth extra stars in my book.

We were right across the street from the beach, which was GORGEOUS. There were definitely a lot of people, so if that’s not your thing, uhm, don’t go to Phuket?

What made it so incredible to me was how my cousin and I sat on our towels for a couple hours, listening to music, reading, and drawing. I watched tourists para-sail while a storm slowly rolled in from the distance. Not to sound too ridiculously hipster or whatever, but I’m totally going to sound too ridiculously hipster or whatever: it was sublime.

After we got rained-out, we went for drinks and went to bed. That’s about it– that’s what you do in Phuket. You go to the beach, maybe para-sail, and you drink. There are elephant shows and shopping, but elephants aren’t meant for shows (so don’t go see them, and if you do after my telling you this, you suck,) and the shopping is the usual cheap touristy stuff (but I DID get an amazing little elephant made out of seashells, so if you’re into tacky, I recommend one of those!)

In a weird way, Parong Beach is delightful because it just feels like a giant tourist trap. If you’re entertained by that like I am, then you’ll probably like Parong. If it infuriates you, go somewhere else– and I don’t mean that in a mean way, I just genuinely want you to enjoy your vacation.

If you’ve ever been to Orlando, Florida, you’ll know about the strange tourist stores on the side of the road that have a bunch of knock-off Disney products. That’s what Parong Beach feels like. It’s this strange space that feels like Vegas but isn’t Vegas at all but has that grime-feel that Vegas has but it’s in Thailand.

Okay, I’m probably being a little unfair– you do other things in Phuket besides lounge on the beach and drink. You can also go snorkeling for an afternoon, which we definitely took advantage of. I’ve never been snorkeling, but I had dreams as a kid of being a marine biologist/scuba diver/lover of fishies, so I was totally into this and loved every second.

I brought my Polaroid Cube with me with the water-proof casing, which was actually terrifying because the thing is so tiny I was afraid I was going to drop it and lose it to the sea urchins, but hey, nothing happened, and I got a couple nice shots.

Oh, and the sunsets at Parong Beach? Hella.

From our short-stay at Parong Beach, we took the ferry to Ko Phi Phi. One of the many mistakes people make is refer to this place as “Ko Phi Phi Island” but “Ko” actually means “island” in Thai, so you’re really saying “Island Phi Phi Island.” THE MORE YOU KNOW!

Ko Phi Phi is one of those places that you see pictures of all over the internet. It’s the place that most people associate with Thailand, other than the temples, because of its gorgeous beaches, clear water, and lovely little boats.

Because the island is rather small, we did a LOT of walking around and exploring. Honestly, I think after lounging around at Parong Beach, we just wanted to feel adventurous again. Apparently, Ko Phi Phi has a gorgeous view point, where you can see the entire island. Also, apparently, my cousin and I are idiots because we just kinda looked at a map and started walking in the general direction of said view point, and wound-up taking the long way round.

In hindsight it wasn’t so bad, because I got some great shots from that walk.

We were SO tired and SO thirsty though, but thankfully at the viewpoint there was a little shop that sold water and ice cream. I unashamedly LOVE ice cream, so I totally got one and enjoyed the hell out of it while also taking in the gorgeous view.

Something about Ko Phi Phi a lot of people talk about is the monkey population. There were monkeys ALL over the view point, hanging out and stealing people’s water bottles. One monkey legit chased me for my ice cream. The little jerk screamed at me in monkey-speak for it, but like I mentioned, I love ice cream and I wasn’t playin’.

Also that monkey looked like a mean af thug.

Mean af thug monkey, pissed I wouldn’t give up my precious ice cream.

We were only at Ko Phi Phi for a little over 24 hours, but it was amazing. I loved walking around the island, checking out the stalls and the food and taking in the atmosphere. I’m really glad we weren’t there for the full-moon party, as that’s not my scene, and it seemed that we were on the quiet side of the island. Great for an old lady of 24 like me.

We got to spend some time on the beach, of course, where I got to do some watercolor painting (I’m garbage at it but it’s fun,) and I got a spectacular sun burn.

Oh, and have I mentioned the colors there are spectacular?

So, Southern Thailand is a gorgeous place, as evidenced in the pictures. Parong Beach has a tourist-trap kind of charm (yes, it is a kind of charm,) that also feels spring-break-like, which is a valid type of vacation, and if you want to go party in Phuket, please, at the very least, pick up your trash. Ko Phi Phi is a little more chill, depending on what side of the island you are on, and I loved it so much I rather miss it.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

 

 

LomoChrome Turquoise XR

I am in love with the new LomoChrome Turquoise XR. The results I obtained from it were unpredictable and exciting, and I can’t wait to shoot my next roll.

For this roll, I started in the middle-of-nowhere-Michigan, and my wonderful boyfriend would stop the car when I wanted a picture. The rest of the roll was shot on a very lengthly walk with my best friend Kaiden, and while on this walk, I asked him to lie down on random things. Bless.

I would like to shoot outside when there are big puffy clouds in the sky, as there is a hint of what could be in the first photo. I’m also wondering about shooting more indoors; a majority of my indoors photos have a blue cast, but one of them is more greenish. Fluorescent lighting?  I’ll find out.

Since I goofed off on a roll, I’m brainstorming what sort of narrative would be complimented by this film. I’ll be doing some underwater shoots this summer, so maybe I’ll give it a whirl then.

LomoChrome Turquoise XR? 10/10, highly recommend.

Happy Shooting!

Snapchat Adventures to, in, and from New Orleans

My snapchat adventures continued on my trip to New Orleans for the SPE National Conference. My mom and uncle tagged along, and, well, it was an interesting road trip.
Yo

 

We started in Michigan obviously and took a full day to drive through Ohio, Kentucky, and part of Tennessee. We stopped for the night in Nashville, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe (because tourism, duh,) and went to bed. We woke up, hopped in the car, drove about two hours and then had a four hour excursion through a ton of antique shops, because my mother and I have a problem.

I’m telling you, if you don’t go to antique stores, you are seriously missing out on some beautifully strange things.

Well, we finally left Alabama and got into Mississippi around dusk, and man… Mississippi is actually the worst state. Worse than Ohio. It smells funny, the roads are super dark at night, there are NO lights basically ANYWHERE, exits are few and far between, and when there are exits, the towns look so spooky you’d think Freddy lived there or something. So yeah, Mississippi? No bueno. If you’re from Mississippi, mad props to you, but sorry not sorry on my opinion of your poor, poor state.

But yeah, we got to Louisiana, checked into our fancy Motel 6, and crashed.

Only to wake up hella early the next day, because I had one day to do some sightseeing. So our marathon through New Orleans happened.

My adventures through New Orleans ended with an SPE related event, which was a lecture at the New Orleans Museum of Art by JERRY UELSMANN.

If you are unfamiliar with this amazing soul, go educate yourself.

He is one of the founding members of the Society for Photographic Education, and he is a charismatic speaker and has endless wit. I bought his book after and had him sign in, and he signed it TWICE. His reason? He didn’t like how the first signature looked. I love that man.

He asked if I was a student, and I told him yes. He said that he was too, and that it was important to never stop learning. I couldn’t agree more.

I went to bed on cloud 9 and woke up and spent the next 3 days above the clouds. SPE was incredible. I met some incredible people like Olivia Parker, Anne Noble, and faculty from Columbia College Chicago, Judy Natal and Ross Sawyers. It was a wonderful time, and I’m already looking forward to the Regional Conference this Fall.

And that was New Orleans. After a brief trip to the cemetery, we headed back to Michigan. In one go. Because we are insane.

Also, how creepy is that abandoned Toys R Us? It was down the road from our classy hotel accommodations.

And that is my snapchat adventures for New Orleans. I’m not traveling anywhere for a while, so the snapchat streak is coming to a temporary end. Thanks for browsing my selfies and bad jokes; I’m sure you weren’t avoiding anything important.

Happy Shooting!

Snapchat Adventures in Boston

Before I gush more about my trip to New Orleans, I have to gush about my trip to Boston (which was almost a month ago… I’m a bit behind the times here.)

And, of course, the best way for me to illustrate my trip is through snapchat.

 

My selfie game is gettin’ strong.

There were two things about this trip that were important: firstly, this was my first trip completely solo. No person traveling with me, no friends to stay with at my final destination. Solo~ Second, I was so sick and I thought I was going to die, so my time in Boston was spent in my hostel, taking Mucinex and sleeping so I would make it to my grad school interview not only with my voice, but alive.

They always say that it is about the journey, not the destination, and after this trip I can say that is very true. I spent 24 hours on a bus to get to Boston, including a 3.5 hour layover in NYC. While I was at Port Authority with every other poor soul who had to be at Port Authority past midnight, I met two incredible people. One was an Amish man from Maine, and we talked about Jesus and faith and all that good stuff. His love for others was clearly apparent, as was his love for his family, which he told me all about. It was lovely, meeting a kindred spirit.

The other person I met was a lady who lives in Maine but comes to NYC for her doctor appointments, something about not being able to get a doctor in Maine or something. The Amish man put her personality perfectly: “She seems like a well-to-do-person.” Her, the Amish gentleman, and I were the first in line for our loading dock, and we got to talking, because what else are you going to do at that time of morning while waiting for a bus that is three hours away? It was during our conversation she mentioned her health care dilemma. Apparently, she was an emergency response worker during the 9/11 attacks, and her lungs are all messed up from breathing in those harmful debris. I’m always so taken aback by stuff like that, and she said it so humbly, too. She did a lot of good on that day, and she’s paying for it with her health. Think about people like her, and thank them, because they are a special and rare kind.

But enough with my reflections. I hope my snapchats were enjoyable (I have so much fun making them on my travels, and hopefully that translates well,) and I hope that you pay some kindness forward today or meet a kindred spirit.

Happy Shooting!

Northern Ireland Was A Trip

Today was quite the day.

It was wonderfully pretty.

It was wonderfully surprising.

It was wonderfully- oh my god how did we end up in Belfast?


This morning my friends and I woke up super duper early to go on a private guided tour through Northern Ireland. I was especially excited because I saw photographs of the places we visited, and I was so excited to take my own pictures I fell asleep on the ride up. Before I passed out with my mouth hanging open and hitting my head on the window every fifteen minutes, our tour guide mentioned the date.

“Today is July 12th.”

Everyone in the car was like, yeah, okay, that’s cool bro, but then he went on:

“It is an important date in Northern Ireland. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, so there is a lot of tension between the Protestants and Catholics. We usually go through Belfast, but there are riots there every year, so we are not going through Belfast.”

I essentially paraphrased all of that, but yeah, that was the gist of it. So we didn’t go through Belfast and went on our merry little way to the Dark Hedges.

And then we left the real world and started living in a fairy tale.

Apparently 200 (or was it 300?) years ago some rich dude had all of these beech trees planted on the road leading up to his mansion. Today they look like this.

Now, I’m going to get all pensive for a moment, so bear with me and suffer through it: I was thinking a lot about the title, “Dark Hedges.” The word dark has a mixed connotation. As I looked up at the branches, I understood that the trees looked sinister, but they were absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful. It’s kind of interesting, because as humans we sometimes look at things that are bad for us, or “dark,” and are tempted by them. Alluring, just like the Dark Hedges.

But enough of that pensive stuff.

After lying in the middle of the road (we’re dead,) my group and I hopped back in our little car with our home boy tour guide, and headed in the direction of the Giant’s Causeway. But first, a pit stop at Dunluce Castle. I wasn’t expecting this, and dang, it was so cool from the outside.

But it was even cooler on the inside.

Whenever I’m walking on history, my heart beats a little faster. People lived there hundreds of years ago. It was a grand place back then. Now it is ruins. It’s fascinating to sit in the middle of it all and picture the people walking around. I wonder how many ancient paths I crossed on my visit.

Dang, I’m really reflective today. But after seeing all the stuff I saw today, you can’t blame me so ha.

Also the castle was on the sea so there was that. And there was a cave under it and some kids went caving and apparently the cave opened up into the ocean so that was hella cool.

Then we hopped in the car and went to the Giant’s Causeway. The cool thing about the Giant’s Causeway is you can’t see it right away. You have to walk quite a ways to see the real treat. So my homies and I walked about a kilometer (I still don’t know what that is in miles, I’m a lazy American,) along the base of a cliff, and when we turned the corner I lost my hold on reality for the second time today.

It was incredible. These formations were made from volcanic activity. I got separated from my friends and went off on my own for a bit, mostly because I took my sweet time exploring all of it. The rocks. The people. The tide pools. The ocean. The view. Just, everything, and I was trying to experience it fully because I never ever want to forget something like this.

Oh and I totally took creepy shots of people ha.

Then we noticed there was a path leading up to the top of the cliffs. As we American people like to say, YOLO carpe diem, so we hiked to the top and it was worth it. The view was breathtaking (and I mean that literally, because we were all suddenly extremely asthmatic by the time we reached the top.)

At the top, there was a precious town in the distance, straight from a fairy tale book. I’m all about the fairy tales today. And there were sheep and it was just so wonderful and it made me jealous that I didn’t have the sort of life that would let me live in that town and have sheep and live by the sea and ahh. Dangit Ireland, I need to leave and go back to London, stop enticing me to stay!

After lunch we had a brief stint at some bay that was relevant to Game of Thrones (I don’t watch the show, I know, I know, I’m working on it-) and had some delicious cake and ice cream. It was a charming little place on that bay that was relevant to Game of Thrones (that’s the new name for it, officially,) and I never had cake so good. I should mention at this point in our journey it was starting to rain hella hard. So we got back to the car where our guide was waiting, and we started the car, and it stalled.

Uhm?

But then it started so all was well and we went to the Rope Bridge and didn’t really do anything there except walk down a hill and got soaked and hid in the bathroom and yeah. We had had enough adventure for the day, so we returned to the vehicle and started the three hour drive back to Dublin. Naturally, I fell asleep.

I woke up to: “Get out, we need to push the car.”

The car stalled on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I guess I was asleep for maybe a half an hour at max, so we weren’t even relatively close to Dublin. The girls and I hopped out and helped push the car into a parking lot of a pub, which thankfully was also in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to think about how different the situation might have been if it wasn’t.

We went into the pub while our tour guide started to panic. We just kinda sipped on some water and joked about how crappy the situation was, while also silently trying to figure out how we were going to get back to Dublin. A few minutes passed and our guide returned with,

“Have you ever tried hitchhiking before?”

An unanimous “No.” was his answer.

“Do you feel like trying?”

See previous answer.

We were not about to try and get four young girls from Northern Ireland to Dublin via hitchhiking. No way, no how, and we were not about to endure some Hostel or Taken crap. So our guide, bless his soul, called a cab to take us to a bus station, and he paid for it.

But here’s the thing.

The bus station was in Belfast. Remember what I told you about Belfast?

Our cab driver was aware of our predicament and while on our way to the legendary city, and made calls to find us a bus ASAP. He also told us about how it was July 12th. We knew fully well it was July 12th- in fact, we were becoming increasingly aware it was July 12th as we went under a motor-way overpass that had two armored police vehicles on top. With a chuckle our cab driver told us that those were for riot control.

“We call ’em beat wagons.”

Oh, lovely.

So we get off the motor way. It was official: we were in Belfast on the worst day possible. The thing was though, even though we saw like ten riot control vehicle things beat wagons. We also saw the occasional bonfire. There were hardly any people, until we got near the bus station, where a march was happening near by. It wasn’t an issue though. The issue in that moment was how sketchy the bus station was. It looked like a prison. Here have some iPhone photos as proof:

Our cabby sat and stared at the station for about a minute before realizing that he should probably walk us in. So he did. And he found us a bus and wished us luck and drove off into the sunset. The story ends with my friends and I getting a bus back to Dublin and living happily ever after with the motto:

“If I can survive Belfast, I can survive anything.”

Happy shooting! And I mean in the photography sense- protest peacefully!

 

UPDATE: Apparently this was the first year there were no riots in Belfast. Phew!

 

 

Memorial Day and How Hot Air Balloons Exist

It’s Memorial Day in the United States, which means it’s a holiday weekend! This weekend I did quite a bit in the way of photography, so here it goes!

I got a new camera. Kaiden and I went to a couple flea markets and I scored a Sears KS-1 camera with a fixed 50mm lens. The camera is semi-automatic and I can only set the aperture. The camera sets the shutter speed. So, it’s good for when I’m in a hurry. I also scored a Promatic FTD4500AF Hot Shoe Flash- which I am SUPER HAPPY about because I’ve been wanting a flash for my analog cameras but hadn’t gotten around to it. Now I can play with gels and TUNGSTEN FILM I AM USING ALL CAPS BECAUSE I’VE BEEN WANTING TO SHOOT TUNGSTEN WITH A YELLOW GEL FOR ABOUT A YEAR NOW AND MY TIME HAS COME.

So that was pretty great.

Sunday morning was the more intense adventure. My boyfriend and I woke up at 3AM to drive two hours to see a hot air balloon launch in Frankenmuth, MI. For those of you who have been around for a while, my hot air balloon attempts from last year ended with two good photos of the balloons on the ground (one of which is being published.) I’ve started the hot air balloon season with determination, and I was not disappointed.

I was, however, deeply confused.

I’m new to this whole hot air balloon culture. All I know is that they are pretty and they fly and I want to photograph them. Last year, I always went to evening launches, where there would be a giant roped-off field and crowds of people sitting around it waiting for the balloons to blow up and get flyin’. Since every evening launch I went to ended with no balloons, I did some research and found that the balloons are more likely to fly in the morning. I’m not a morning person, but it was a “challenge accepted” kind of thing.

We got to Frankenmuth.

Nothing.

No one.

There was a field, but no people.

Imagine my tired confusion.

I took to the interwebs and found that they were not launching from the designated field, but rather from different backyards in the area, and that they were going to meet over a nearby air field. The hunt was on. We found the air field, but saw no balloons. On our drive though, we saw some balloons being inflated. So we waited.

The sky was dotted with balloons within 15 minutes. We parked the car and started walking, looking for a place to see the balloons more clearly. We got to an open field where there was a clear shot to the air strip, where the balloons were congregating. Pictures ensued.

Thank goodness I brought my zoom lens, because those balloons were a bit too far for 80mm. They are a bit back-lit, but that couldn’t be helped because, y’know, I can’t control the sunrise. I got a little lens glare as a result, but c’est la vie. Live and learn, as always.

I’m not super pleased with the photos, but I am excited I got to see balloons in flight. I’m going to more launches this summer, and I’m hoping that I’ll get to go to an evening launch, where the balloons will be a lot closer and hopefully not back-lit.

I took a picture frame that had a stock image of a hot air balloon in it with us because I had an idea for an instax picture, but we ended up using it for more than just that. Some of my favorite pictures are from messing around with it.

And that’s the hot air balloon adventure.

Our adventures on Sunday did not end there. We went to the beach to see my family and ended up going on a nature trail. I had my Minolta X-700 with me, but it randomly stopped working, so I was out of luck. I had my Minolta Weathermatic A with me, but it only had 6 shots left on it and it was quickly filled (but I can finally send it off to get developed!) I had to resort to using my iPhone, but I got a few pretty shots.

It was an excellent weekend for photography. I’ll have a double-exposed roll of my hot air balloon and beach escapades, but I have to finish the roll. And, speaking of double exposures, I’m still taking submissions for my double exposure challenge. Follow the link for more details and email your images to owensbydanielle@gmail.com. I’ll be posting the submissions by the end of the first week of June.

That’s all for now- I’m looking forward to seeing more submissions! Happy shooting~