Pseudo Soi Dog

Soi Dog’s Gotta Eat

So as mentioned before, some soi dogs enjoy a gray area; they don’t necessarily have a home, but they do have someone that looks after them — motorbike taxi drivers, various street food vendors, etc. One of the many benefits of being a stray dog in a Buddhist country, I suppose.

I’ve seen this hefty girl on Pattaya Second Road at all hours of the day and night, so I’m assuming she doesn’t have a permanent roof over her head. On the other hand, she has a collar and looks reasonably healthy. And  as you can see, she’s not hurting for eats.

Some soi dogs are looked after ... sometimes looked after too much.


Photo a Day: Fallen Idol?

Or Impromptu Buddhist Altar?

I was strolling through an overgrown vacant lot in Pattaya the other day on my way to the Friday afternoon market to buy a shirt — a garish red one, as it turns out — when I spotted this. Not sure what it’s all about, but it struck me as a … er, rather striking image.

A fallen idol on an impromptu Buddhist altar ...

The Slack Has Been Picked Up

And This Really Isn’t a an SEO Worthy Healine (Or Subhead)

But sometimes you just can’t be arsed. Been busy this past week, as I had my third and final test in level one of my Thai language class. This is actually the second time I’ve taken the test. The last time I took it, I got a borderline score; the instructor testing me said that she would pass me so I could move onto level two if I really wanted to, but she advised against it. I decided to give it a few months and try again.

This time, the result was satisfactory; passed with flying colors. Anyway, I neglected ye olde Photo a Day project for the past several days. I’m here to rectify that.

The view as I ascend the escalator to get on the skytrain outside my school in Phloen Chit (in Bangkok) has always struck me for its … perpendicularity, I guess we’ll say. Not sure if that’s a word, but it is now.

Gotta come clean: I actually had to merge two different thresholds to achieve the desired image:

A threshold version of an urban landscape of converging perpendicular lines at Phloen Chit BTS station, Bangkok

Tomorrow I’ll post the non-threshold version.

Remember the Thai gargoyle? It resides just out of the lower left-hand corner of the frame in this photo.

Photo a Day: More Portrait Professional

Changing the Face of a Face in Portrait Pro

As noted yesterday, I’m the proud owner of a Portrait Professional license.  As noted yesterday, too, I continue to be pleased and impressed with this software. And as promised yesterday, here’s a more in-depth example of what I don’t like about the default settings of Portrait Pro (but again, these can turned off with a simple mouse click) — the changing of the subject’s face and skull shape to bring them more in line with beauty norms.

This of course is an example of the larger conundrum with photography that is practically as old as photography itself. Despite the proverbial saying: “the camera doesn’t lie,” it can be made to do so. Granted it’s much easier here in the digital age, but cameras have been lying and photographers have been tweaking images for the sake of their own artistic vision or a client’s happiness pretty much since a Frenchman developed photochemical photography in the 1820s.

Whether it’s right or wrong, i.e., ethical, to do so … well, we’ll save that hornet’s nest for some other time. Let it suffice to say that in terms of photojournalism, I think it’s wrong. In terms of anything else, I’m firmly in the camp of “it depends.” It depends on the audience, the photographer’s artistic goal (commercial, fine art, etc.) and of course what the client wants (if a client comes into the equation).

Myself, as explained yesterday, I’d like to make my subjects look like they would on a near-perfect day (unless I were publishing a photo in some sort of journalistic context). I remove blemishes and will tweak skin tones, and I’m not above tucking in a chin or slimming a tummy a little bit — but I draw the line at changing the shape of someone’s face/skull (although if a client wanted it done, sure, why not).

Which brings us back to Portrait Professional. It’s default settings change this (straight out of the camera, except for a crop and a conversion to jpeg, but otherwise un-retouched):

A Thai woman marches in the Pattaya, Thailand St. Patrick's Day Parade (2013)

To this:

A Thai woman marches in the Pattaya, Thailand St. Patrick's Day Parade (2013)  -- As edited in Portrait Pro

Her eyes and lips are bigger, her nose is smaller, and her long face has been contorted into a more traditional oval shape. To my eye, it almost doesn’t even look like the same woman. Aesthetically pleasing, sure (although I would argue not necessarily anymore so than the original image, in terms of the lovely subject). But aesthetics are subjective, at best. And for me and my own photography, this is just a bit too much.

To illustrate it even further, here’s an animated gif with the before and after images (as depicted above):

a demonstration of before and after editing changes made with Portrait Pro

Fortunately, with one mouse click, you can turn off the facial sculpting features, but keep the skin blemish and tone corrections. And all of these can be tweaked or turned off individually. But the default settings (minus the facial sculpting) are pretty much spot on:

A Thai woman marches in the Pattaya, Thailand St. Patrick's Day Parade (2013)  -- As edited in Portrait Pro

Other than one blemish on her chin and a stray highlight on her cheek, the skin corrections are done. She looks lovely — and more importantly, still like herself. I think I would lessen the corrections done to the skin under her eyes, too, where the correction begins to get into the alien-skin/airbrush territory.

So all done with a few clicks as a plugin in Photoshop. Sharp eyed peeps might also notice that Portrait Pro has also tweaked the general lighting and highlights as well. Like the facial sculpting, you can turn this off with a click before you return to Photoshop.

P.S. Curious about my lovely subject? I caught her marching in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade — in Pattaya, Thailand, no less.

Portrait Professional for a Dummy

What Does Portrait Professional
Do to a Dirty (Wo)manikin Head?

So I just invested in Portrait Professional, after playing around with the free trial. It doesn’t do anything you can’t do natively in Photoshop, in terms of cleaning up a portrait subject’s skin — fixing blemishes, skin tones, etc. — but it definitely cuts out the number of steps involved and thereby simplifies the process (and provides a considerable time reduction).

Plus it gives you fully manual control, so you don’t end up with some ridiculous looking alien-skin image. The big thing for me was being able to turn off the default settings which actually manipulate the shape/proportions of the subject’s face  and skull (which you can do). That’s going a bit too far in my opinion; in fact the examples on the company’s website I find to be a bit extreme — some even to the point of grotesque. I’m not above tightening a chin or a tummy a little bit, or tucking in a protruding ear. But changing the dimensions of a subject’s skull — that’s too much for me.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway, I just wanted to simplify cleaning up blemishes and evening out/softening skin tones — basically trying to achieve an image of someone as they would look on a near-perfect day with near-perfect lighting, etc. Portrait Pro does with aplomb. I’m still playing around with it and learning the finer points, but I’ll eventually post some examples here.

In the meantime, I was curious to see what it would do with the manikin head on the beach. Here’s the unretouched photo straight out of the camera (other than converting from raw to jpeg):


And here it is after being processed in Portrait Professional, using the default settings (although I did adjust the placement of the facial recognition lines):


Remarkably subtle; in fact I don’t think you can really tell the shape of the head has been changed (unlike when you flip between the before and after images within the program itself). But then I suppose a manikin head is already an idealized version of human.

Anyway, as I say, more later with Portrait Professional. But I will add that I sprang for the 64 bit edition (which also comes with a Photoshop plugin, which works great) and so far so good; I’m pretty happy with it.

Soi Dogs? What About Cafe Cats?

Cat: The Definition of Nonchalance

A cat takes a bath on a sidewalk cafe table in  Pattaya, Thailand

So I was strolling down Pattaya Tai to catch the mini-van back to Bangkok this morning for a meeting when I spied this lovely creature perched atop a cafe table cleaning herself. It was such a non sequitur, that I stopped, continued on, thought to myself  “How am I not photographing that cat?” and went back and busted out the N8.

Now most stray cats are a bit skittish around humans, unless they have been fed frequently by them. Soi cats in particular. This one though did not give a tinker’s damn in the least little bit that I was standing only a few feet away with my phone pointed in its general direction. It continued to clean itself and then settled down for a nap.

A cat naps on a sidewalk cafe table in  Pattaya, Thailand

Judging by the collar and its overall healthy appearance — not to mention its feline nonchalance — that it is well looked after. But then notice its tail, or lack thereof. It may very well be an adopted soi cat; usually a busted up or otherwise missing tail is a sure sign of stray critters here in Thailand.

Are you a dog person? Then check out these soi dogs.

Photo a Day: Pigeon of Doom

Ye Olde Pigeon of Doome alight on a beach shack.

I believe it was Ansel Adams that said if you’ve got a roll of film, then there is a photograph to be had. I did go out with my camera briefly today, but didn’t find anything that floated my boat. Ended up looking through previous pics and found this photograph of a pigeon on top of a shack on the beach.

Began tinkering in Photoshop because the sky was washed out — I have GOT to get a polarizing filter — and ended up with the above. Slightly more interesting than the original photo, in my humble opinion.

Photo a Day: Babe in Arms

Babe in Arms Wants Those Pigeons!

a babe in arms on the beach at Pattaya, Thailand

Was cleaning up my hard drive and came across this photo that I meant to use as a Photo a Day entrant, and a perusal through previous posts reveals I had not. So here it is.

I was wandering along the beach front in Pattaya one afternoon, just snapping a few random pics, mostly of soi dogs. When I got to the end of the beach/Beach Road, I happened to spy this young lady and little dude/dudette; the little one was determined to get at the pigeons that frequent the place. Unfortunately the shots where the pigeons are in the frame the babe in arms is out of focus.

I have GOT to remember to change the auto-focus settings when shooting people dammit.

So rather than have an out of focus baby, I opted for a tight crop — one in which the pigeons weren’t in the frame anyway. Yeah, the little dude/dudette had been racing after the pigeons as I strolled up, and even after mom picked him up, he was still struggling to get at ’em.

Edit: Originally, the crop I chose was the one below, because I wanted to focus the image on the baby. But cropping out the mom seemed like a distraction; looking at the photo, once I had taken in the child, I couldn’t help but think what the mom’s face looked like. So edited it again, and kept Mom in the frame.

Much better. Mom has an interesting face; she’s obviously a bit distressed that her kid has been chasing after dirty ole’ pigeons.

a babe in arms on the beach at Pattaya, Thailand

Time Lapse Photos and Video in Photoshop CS6

Playing Around with Video Editing Capabilities in the Latest Version of Photoshop

Just wanted to play with 1) time lapse photo function in Camera Pro on my Nokia N8 and 2) Photoshop CS6’s native video editing capabilities. I’ve never futzed around with video much, either taking or editing. Now that I have not one but three cameras capable of video, and editing software and a machine that doesn’t take hours to render video, I might have to do more.

Bear in mind, this was just a series of photos taken with my phone while I sipped my doppio on a cloudy, not-quite-rainy afternoon. Nothing exciting, but I’ll let my little experiment stand in for the Photo a Day project.

Oh, this is on Beach Road in Pattaya, Thailand, taken from inside the Starbucks at the corner of Soi Yamato. This comprises 32 frames, or photos with each taken about 5 seconds apart. In real time that would be a little more than 2 and a half minutes.