I went to my Dad’s for lunch yesterday. He’s a fantastic amateur photographer and is in a camera club. This means that he has real motivation to get his editing ‘just so’.
I have been struggling with exposure recently – selective areas of photos taken in bright light being too bright, leaving shadowy areas with virtually no detail. I had started to use the ‘fill light’ slider in the RAW editor but Dad helped me even further with a quick tutorial in using the RAW editor a bit more thoroughly and then in Photoshop using the dodge and burn tools.
Here are some results. Dad rightly pointed out that many of my Inle Lake photos from Burma featured the fishermen in silhouette. While this can add drama, in these particular photos, that wasn’t necessarily the case here. Here’s the difference I’ve just made by using the ‘fill light’ (highlights) slider as well as the recovery slider to achieve detail in the background hills. I upped the contrast and also used the clarity slider gently.
Using the dodge and burn tools, I managed to get rid of some of the distracting overblown exposure in these photos. In the first one, it’s the yellow urn that was way too bright. I used the magnetic lassoo to grab the area of the urn I wanted to work on and then used the burn tool to take some of the brightness off. The upshot is that the leaf curling down is now also in contrast and more visible. It’s a tiny bit of work but it makes a big difference to the viewing experience.
I’m still learning, so the results will be patchy for a while, I’m sure. Any other tips gratefully received!
P.s. Here’s another great edit I’ve done since writing this post – cooled the temperature a tiny bit (from a tip in the April edition of Digital Photo), and reduced the blare on the white t-shirt by using recovery and the burn tool
My Burma chronicles are nearly done but the memories will live on forever. The more I have written, the more I want to make sure I go back in 2015, ideally as an election observer (unlikely, as there are far better qualified people) or simple to join in with celebrations, which I hope will come with change.
2015 feels a long way off still and anything could happen. In the meantime, I will dwell on the final leg of my trip, a relaxing visit to Inle Lake.
In my head, we were going to be staying right on the shoreline, watching the sun set over this beautiful lake. Had I thought about it a little harder, I would have realised that unless you are an ‘exclusive’ traveller, this would be unrealistic. Why would we want the banks of this lake spoilt by clusters of backpackers hostels and guesthouses?
Sensibly, whoever has developed the burgeoning tourist trade here has made sure that a nearby village has become the restaurant and guesthouse hub. It’s a sweet place…relaxed, friendly and delightful to cycle round. It reminded me of a little places like Banos in Ecuador (I’m talking 1996 by the way, so the comparison may be redundant now!) or Panajachel on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala (ditto!).
The highlight of a trip to the lake is – of course – a trip on the lake. The light was stunning, even at 8 a.m when we set out. There is a clarity out there that – again – put me in mind of South America and Lake Titicaca. When we set off, I was nervous that a day on a powered long boat would feel like being on a tour bus, as there were dozens of them, all jetting off at the same time down the canal leading to the lake. How could this be a peaceful day? As soon as we reached the lake I remembered a key fact from my guide book. Inle Lake is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, with hundreds of tiny canals winding away from it to little settlements and villages. Other tourist boats were soon lines on the horizon and we only felt the tourist scene at the major sites, such as Indein, the biggest village on the day trip trail.
The on shore visits were fine rather than mind-blowing but that’s not important. The magic of came from watching everyday life as we streamed past. The fishermen seem like a tourist cliché, given how many award-winning photos of them appear in our press and online, but when I put the camera down and just watched them, the elegance of their rowing was a joy to see. Once in his ‘spot’ the fisherman stands at the end of his low, long boat (which were similar to Oxford punts) and balances on one leg, with his free leg woven around a long oar. This leaves both hands free to handle the nets. It amazed me that this style is unique to Inle, as it seemed such a sensible way to operate on a calm lake, as it means no pause in fishing when they need to move the boat a few metres this way or that.
As we motored down the canals, the variety of life on the banks or at the edges of the waterline was fantastic, from a man riding a water buffalo, to people growing veg in floating gardens.
Just as we were all enjoying the ease of swanning about in a motorised dugout, (relative) disaster struck. The boat I was in cracked over something as we puttered along a shallow canal. ‘Oh,’ said Bernadette, who was at the back, just in front of the boatman, ‘we’ve got a bit of water coming in.’ A ‘bit of water’ turned out to be fast-flowing and within seconds we realised we were sinking fast. Thankfully, the second boat for our group was behind, not in front and they arrived just in the nick of time. As we held bags and cameras aloft and urged the others to grab them from us, we stepped into their boat and looked round. What had been a boat just seconds before was now a wreck.
Thankfully, Paddy prioritised photos over sitting down safely! We thought she was mad at the time but I’m grateful now, as it’s funny to look back on it. I should point out that accidents are very rare indeed, so do not let this put you off an iconic tourist experience!
We motored on to the lunch stop and borrowed a friend’s newly purchased fisherman’s trousers. I inadvertently caused hilarity among the waiting staff when I emerged from the toilets with the trousers on back to front. Sorry, no photo to show but needless to say I was immensely grateful that Will had bought them just before lunch. As Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would say, I had a soggy bottom, which is never a good thing.
Our biggest concern was for the poor boatman. This was a borrowed boat, as his had engine trouble earlier on in the day. Over lunch, we discussed with our tour leader how the accident would affect him. Time taken to med the boat would mean him losing about two weeks’ worth of income. So we decided to club together to help out. It was easy for us to do and when we gave him the money the next day, it was clear that it meant alot to him.
There’s not much more I can say about my wonderful day on the lake that my photos can’t, so enjoy I hope you enjoy this final gallery.
I’m near the end of my Burma trip, so I’m going to prolong the blogging pleasure by posting photos of the journey to Inle Lake, not just writing about the lake itself.
It was a wonderful journey. As always in Burma, there were some great bits of traffic and scenery en route.
It was Christmas Day and although not a soul on our trip was remotely fussed about celebrating (well, we wouldn’t have escaped our home countries if we wanted fireside, satsumas and too much food, would we?), it was good to have a decent lunch stop. This was our view – I don’t know the name of the little lake but it doesn’t really matter. Just being somewhere so different at a time of year that I really don’t enjoy Britain much, was superb.
Just before we arrived in Inle Lake, we went to Shwe Yaungwe monastery. I think these are probably the most photographed monks in Burma but they don’t mind. In fact, the young boys doing their chanting at 4pm seemed happy to have a distraction. They looked so serious in the photos and then when the cameras went down, they waved and grinned!
Here’s a puzzling thing. Back home when I think of young boys and girls going off to boarding school before their teens, I feel a sense of outrage, that they are too young to be shipped off and if their parents wanted them, why are they sending them outside the home. So how come I had none of that feeling in Burma, seeing young monks and nuns in a similar situation? I have no explanation for my double standard.
I wonder whether it’s because going to a monastery can give a young person an education in a country where there is no compulsory education at all. That’s right, not even the most basic primary education is free in Burma.
These are some of my favourite photos from the trip to that monastery.