Mekong River, August 2011
I have written an article about my trip through Laos before (here).
I had been photographing as a hobby for only two year. I was shooting on the APS-C camera, the Canon 450D. I felt very comfortable using it by then and had already been on a photographic journey through Yunnan the year before. I felt like a seasoned travel photographer.
My student's father lent me his 70-200mm f/2.8. I had also purchased the 50mm f/1.8. I planned on taking lots of pictures on this trip. This trip still stands out as one of my favorite journeys in Asia.
After hours and hours of the same brown and green palate of the Mekong River, I switched to monochrome. What you lose in color, by shooting in black and white, you gain in textures. Traveling is exhausting. Beautiful scene becomes dull before too long. But photographing in black and white reveals a different world. It is a dream world.
Of all of the great shots I took then, this one stands out as my favorite. The cramped quarters of a longboat presented an opportunity to make friends with fellow passengers. The English speaking tourists did that for a while and then napped.
Standing around the front of the vessel, I connected with the old woman in the picture. The tarps serving as curtains for the window frames acted as soft boxes. I smiled to her and she smiled back letting me know that it was okay to take her photo.
I wouldn't shoot at f/6.3 if I were shooting this portrait today. I can only guess that I was shooting in aperture priority mode and as I was shooting various people around the boat, I had to adjust to the changing light as much as I could. I have learned a lot about shooting since then. Even though I can distinctly remember how uncomfortable the seats were on the longboat. That discomfort over two days does not dissuade me from wanting to take a similar journey again down the same river.
On that river, there is a dream world to explore.