When I decided to move to Thailand, I also decided to invest in a beginner DSLR camera. Considering how poor I was (working two jobs and I still didn’t have health insurance), deciding to spend $500 on anything would’ve been a pretty major decision even if I hadn’t had all the other concerns involved with moving to the other side of the planet. I swore up and down that I would not waste that $500 because I knew going in that it meant my buffer was going to be much smaller when I got here.
I’m sure you know what happens next.
Because any time you have lead in like that, you know that what comes next is the camera sitting in a box for ten months.
To be fair, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I took my camera out and had a lot of fun teaching myself some basics of photo composition, but I’ve still been entirely dependent on the auto features – taking the “SLR” right out of my expensive digital camera.
I’ve finally managed to sit down and read things like my camera manual and a couple photography tutorials, though, and it’s all because I hopped onto my motorbike and headed out to Khlong Tha Dan Dam (the largest RCC dam in the world!).
Hopping onto my motorbike and heading anywhere (with camera in tow) is a fairly common occurrence with me: I love driving my bike; I love back country roads; and I love nature. It’s not hard to make the connections, and that’s one of the reasons I love living in this lush province.
I should’ve known, too, that it would be the dam that would help me cross over into actual photography. I love this dam! Something about the location is just numinous and amazing.
The drive there is glorious, both beautiful and peaceful. I actually discovered my preferred route to the dam by myself on one of my first countryside explorations, and I’m so glad I did because it’s way nicer than taking the highway. It’s full of overhanging trees and cool shade opening up into bright sunlight and quiet rice paddies. The whole time you’re getting closer to the mountain, alternately seeing it in the distance and then following a curve in the road so that it’s hidden from view. You pass through a sleepy little village and without any warning, the whole dam is laid bare before you.
But the best part of the trip is still ahead of you on the drive up the mountain. It’s a short enough drive that it doesn’t get cumbersome, while also being twisty and curvy enough to keep your interest. Add in just a few places where it gets steep enough to make a Kansas plains girl such as myself a little nervous and you have the perfect drive.
Then you get to the top and see this:
So the dam is pretty special under any circumstances, but for some reason on this particular day the sun also decided to play a game with me. I’m not sure if it was a hide and seek game, or if the sun was just being an attention whore. But I just couldn’t stop taking these blown out pictures of how the sun was playing with my light quality.
Suddenly, I started to feel like a photographer.
I started taking pictures like mad, of all sorts of things. I took pictures of stairs!
It wasn’t until I was turning back to leave that The Picture presented itself. The Picture is why I’m writing this post today, why I spent all day reinvigorating my Flickr, why I opened my camera manual. The Picture convinced me that I may not be a half-bad photographer after all.
(Um… So that lead in may have been a bit much, even for The Picture. I also want to say that The Picture convinced me to open my camera manual because I wanted to be able to take pictures that were both beautiful and technically excellent. The Picture, I think, achieves beauty, but it is certainly an amateur photo. Don’t be expecting anything like the National Geographic photographers, okay? I’m still new to this. I hadn’t opened my camera manual, people.)
There was a pretty healthy breeze going that day, and I noticed when I was walking back that one of the flags effectively blocked the sun and created a nice corona effect. It took a couple different flags for me to find one that would unfurl properly (stupid inanimate objects just don’t respond to direction), but I finally managed to set up this shot.
I’m still not sure how I managed to take a picture that makes me think of both Thai nationalism and the Star Spangled Banner, but… I think that’s why I like it so much, come to that.