A New Beginning

Welcome to 2011 a year that's going to provide a great deal of fun, information and connection for all of your who are a part of the ever-expanding Travel Photography Guru community. I hope the Christmas/New Year period was a happy, peaceful and safe time for you and your family and I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you who have regularly visited the travel photography guru site during 2010.

I have huge plans for my on-line presence which began with the re-branding of my business in the last half of 2010. The most obvious component of that vision has been the introduction of the travelphotographyguru.com website and blog. I'II be adding to my on-line presence, over coming months, in a way that will be of interest to you all. My mantra for 2011 is community.

Regular followers of my blog will be aware that I recently returned from a tour I ran with another photography tutor, David Burren, to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. It was an amazing trip and a wonderful opportunity. I made many new friends during the tour and will share some images on this site over coming weeks.

December was largely a blur. Arriving back in Australia on Nov 30th I spent much of the month re-equipping and organising my current trip: a 9 week photographic exploration through Asia. Most of that time was spent researching, locating and purchasing a new Leica digital camera system. I'm an old Leica hand having previously owned three M-series and two R-series cameras and several lenses. Five years ago I converted to digital capture and, because Leica had nothing suitable at that time, I made the move to the Canon system. This required the sale of all my Leica and Hasselblad cameras and lenses. Now that I'm back with Leica I've had to purchase new lenses (a very expensive move indeed). I finally located a silver/grey M9 camera body from Paxtons in Sydney (probably the only one available in the country) and the following three lenses, one at a time, from Camera Exchange in Melbourne:

* Leica 24mm f1.4 Summilux lens
* Leica 35mm f2 Summicron lens
* Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux lens

Leica is a relatively small German company. The M-series system (cameras and lenses) are virtually handmade. Only a relatively small amount of Leica M-series products are made at a any time. This fact, together with significant interest from a market fascinated by the companies move to high-end digital technology, while maintaining much of their old-school values and design aesthetic, has result in unprecedented demand. Believe me purchasing the equipment in time for my December 28th departure was no easy matter. I received the camera as late as Christmas Eve, which didn't give me anywhere near enough time to test and familiarise myself with the new system.
    
My original plan was to begin the trip with 10 days in Bangkok, a major regional travel hub. Most parts of Asia I'm considering visiting are within a few hours by plane. It's also relatively quick and easy to organise visas via local travel agents. Previous plans to return to the region over recent years have been cancelled due to the cyclone in Myanmar and the horrible earthquake in China's Sichuan Province. This time around, rather than the meticulous planning I've undertaken for previous journeys, I decided to just lob in Bangkok, have a break and organise individual legs of the trip based upon best current knowledge. With luck this approach would allow me to avoid extreme weather, political unrest and the like.

Most large businesses have been closed over the New Year period in Thailand. This has delayed a lot of my planning and travel organising until tomorrow. As a consequence I've spent most of my time with my feet on the ground, wandering the local streets in and around Sukhummvit, a popular tourist area in which I'm staying. This has allowed me to begin to become re-accustomed with the Leica M system. It's not an easy camera to use with no autofocus, a somewhat weird framing system and a very small range of lenses available. I'd say it took me 20-30 rolls of film to begin to become comfortable with the film-based version of my first Leica M series camera. That was in the late 90's. Right now I'm enjoying walking and photographing as a way to get my eye back in, after a very busy December, and see if I can again be comfortable with a Leica M camera.

A last minute thought may have saved the day for me. I decided to squeeze in my Canon 5D Mark II camera as both a backup camera and an alternative for situations when the Leica rangefinder may not be the most suitable option. It was a good move, although I only had room for a single lens: my Canon 24-105mm f4 zoom.

Today's image made in Bangkok's Chatuchak Park is a case in point. I made it with my Leica 75mm f1.4 M-series Summilux lens. I got the shot, but if I'd had the Canon with me at the time I would have benefited from its Continuous Autofocus shooting mode, faster frame rate (the Leica M9 offers only around 2 frames a second in RAW mode) and the 50 plus percent increase in magnification offered by the 105mm lens. I think I'II try to re-visit the park closer to sunset when the critters should be more active and the lovely warm light will provide other photographic opportunities. Look out for an update over the next day or two.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru