Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Well instead of having a nice relaxing massage today, I fought my way through the hot streets and Bangkok traffic today to make it down to the Klong Toey Muay Thai gym. I was able to catch up with some old friends there and also shoot some film at pushed ASAs which allowed me faster shutter speeds. I shot my Tri-x at 800ASA and 1600 ASA using the 21mm and 28mm Leica lens.

Exhausted now, my feet are throbbing, head hurts and I just feel all foggy. I need to finish off this blog and take a shower before drifting off to a well deserved sleep. Its strange how life is, 2 days ago I am working security in Canada, 1 day ago I am flying over the Pacific in a very crowded plane and tonight I am drinking with the Muay Thai trainers and friends in the Klong Toey slum gym (them beer me orange pop), the world is such a small place now, it was nice to be there with everyone again. Tomorrow I will try the 4x5 with 90mm lens to do some eviromental portraits, I got to get the light right thou, position the boxers properly in the best available light.

Night everyone.....

In Bangkok

After a tiring very cramped flight I arrived in Bangkok this morning. A few hours ago I arrived at my cheap hotel, $30 a night, settled in, had a shower and a meal. I have not had a Thai massage for several years but might try that next before going to buy some supplies at 7/11 and taking a nice long sleep. I slept on the plane (sort of) but am suffereing from jet lag (everything seems foggy), I plan to have my sleep then get up early and do a bunch of stuff tomorrow. I will go buy my bus ticket for Mae Sot, I will go down to the Muay Thai gym in Klong Toey and I think I might try to do some bus window/people photographs. I also need to telephone Mimi tonight to set up a possible meeting tomorrow to discuss my coming show at the Toot Yung gallery here in Bangkok (if that happens!).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sucessful Final Test

After banging around my Pentax spot meter a lot (did some damage to it) I thought I better test it before I did some important shooting. So today before work I shot 6 photos, this allowed me to test the spot meter, do some more 90mm tests (heads and full body shots), today's test also allowed to check out a recently found Grafmatic back. Everything turned out well, the meter worked bang on, the 90mm lens distortion on the heads and full body photographs turned out well (I like a bit of distortion) and the Grafmatic back did not leak light. I will take all this good fortune as a positive sign for the coming trip.

Webpage Makeover

I am going to be working on my webpage on my return from Thailand, I plan on doing nightly work on it using my laptop, there will be some changes but not many. Most times when I look at peoples photography webpages online I am frustrated by my inability to see a lot of work and scan through the photographs quickly. People tend to set up fancy dancy pages filled with time consuming and difficult to  use web designs. My idea is simple, make the pages look like contact sheets that load quickly and that can be navigated without waiting around. People online are inpatient and quickly get distracted, its best to keep things simple. My simple design will allow people to view the maximum amount of imagery in the shortest amount of time. I am looking to make up a page of substance over style.

My new page will be a simplification of my already rather stark and bare design. I plan to add a bunch of new photographs made over the last 5 years and dump a whole bunch of crap photos. I will add galleries for the 4x5 available light portraiture made in Thailand and Laos and all the 35mm documentary stuff shot in Thailand, Cambodia. I will also had color medium format sex worker shots from 2010 and the new ladyboy white background sex worker photos made in 2012.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Last Look

I went into my photography library room and chose out one last book to browse through before I leave to make pictures. I chose the book "The Theatre of the Face, Portrait Photography Since 1900" by Max Kozloff. On page 133 I found this previously unnoticed picture, it is inspiring to me, I might try something like this in Thai, a strong, compassionate, noble portrait.

Sharecropper On $5 A Month, Dorthea Lange 1937

Friday, April 26, 2013

I Got My 28mm Lens Back!!

Well I got back my Summicron 28mm F2 today, the lens I dropped and damaged last year in Thailand. The repair took a long time and cost $700 but I am very thankful to have it back in my slippery hands. I used this lens for many of my Klong Toey slum photographs, maybe 15 photos from "The Train Is Coming" show were made with this lens so to have it back is wonderful! I will be off to Thailand soon, so having the lens back is very comforting, like welcoming home an old friend.

I will do a bit more film development tomorrow morning after work to test the sharpness of the repaired lens, I also want to see if the 21mm with flash has any light fall off. I will probably do 1 more test with the Linhof 4x5, this test will be on my Pentax meter which I managed to damage when trying to change out the battery. I will test it to make sure the Pentax digital spot meter is working correctly, and also do some metering and testing with my backup Sekonic meter (I never use the spot meter on this meter). I want to make sure I am getting proper exposures on all my 4x5 work in Mae Sot.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another Mae Sot Dump Video : Nya Htoo's Storry

This video is particularly effective because it speaks through the heart of a child.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

EAC Anual Report

Got an email from the EAC (Edmonton Arts Council) yesterday asking for some photographs for their 2012 Annual Report. I just sent them a selection of scans from the "The Train Is Coming" show which was partially EAC funded, hopefully they will be happy with the work and include it in their yearly report. It is great having organizations like this that support artists and the arts in Edmonton. The EAC grant paid for 1/2 of one of my air tickets to Thailand, working as a guard I have a very limited income but with the help of organizations like the Edmonton Arts Council, I and others are allowed to do meaningful work that helps promote the art in Edmonton.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Documentary About The Dumpsite Workers In Mae Sot

Continuing my research and found this short documentary made on the dump site, the workers in Mae Sot and the help a Western man named Fred Stockwell is giving. I sent an email to this mans organization yesterday, I hope he replies, I would like to help him in anyway I can. Below is a link to the documentary and to Fred's non-profit charity "Eyes To Burma".



Sunday, April 21, 2013

Couple Of Lost 4x5 Negs

Found these 2 negs in an old box of undeveloped film in my darkroom, far from original photographs but kind of nice.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rob's 90mm

Since the Linhof 90mm was such a disappointment to me I decided to look at several others with a possible purchase in the near future. My friend Rob let me test a Super Angolan Schneider 90mm F8, its an older lens with an older shutter but it might work out just fine. The other option is probably a Nikon SW 90mm F4.5, large image circle, sharper lens (by reputation) but also a physically  big piece of glass. More thought needed on this, I might get the Schneider for $225-250 the Nikon will probably be about $540-$580.

My first impression shooting these portraits below in very low light (1/2 second at F8) was that the f8 aperture is difficult to focus with, I might be much better served using he Nikon with a F4.5. My main worry is that if I use the 90mm indoors it might become to dim to focus properly, the 75mm which I also tested today is a F5.6 which was a bit easier to focus. 

I am considering taking the lens to Thailand for 3 weeks of testing! Of the 6 negs I exposed, 3 with the 90mm and 3 with the 75mm I lost 5 to subject movement (1/2 a second is to long to stand still), the only one that turned out is a 90mm sitting portrait at 1/2 and F8 with 200ASA rated Tri-x. I want to try shooting several more 90mm shots today before I decide on whether I should take the lens to work with in Thai.

Scared And Excited

With the next trip to Thailand closing in I feel both scared and excited. If things go wrong in the places I intend to make pictures in they could go very wrong, to put yourself out there like that is both scary and at the same exciting in so many ways.

I need to follow my instincts, treat people with lots of respect and take things as they come, hopefully everything will work out great. I talk the talk a lot now its time to walk the walk, time to create and tell some important stories. When I think of the photographs I will make and the people I will meet and maybe befriend my fears lesson, I feel more at peace.

Things will work out, they always have in the past.

8 Lost 35mm Films And Some Lost 4x5

Felt like catching up today and emptying some 4x5 holders that I might need in Thailand. I developed some sheets of 4x5 that had been sitting around in the darkroom for at least 1 year probably much longer and also developed 8 rolls of 35mm, 5 of which are lost Poipet and Poipet slum stuff (not a fave subject amongst my picture voting friends).

I still have 3-35mm rolls of  Poipet stuff to develop and a 4 sheets of 4x5. I will scan and add any decent pics to this blog entry in the coming days, a mixture of the 35mm and some rather unusual (for me at least) 4x5 stuff.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Third Day Of Tests

Today I retested the Grafmatic holders for light leaks and tested the 75mm for sharpness and coverage. The 75mm looks to be sharper and has a larger image circle but I doubt I can use it for portraits in Asia because its probably 2 wide a lens. I will try some 75mm portraiture tomorrow to see how good or bad it looks. I lost another Grafmatic holder today to light leaks and have 2 that have passed 2 tests that I will use in Asia. Here are some of todays 75mm shots:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Preparing For Thailand

I shot some 4x5 film over the last few days which will allow me to make my final camera kit choices for the trip. I am testing 6 Grafmatic backs trying to find at least 4 that do not leak light. I am also working at doing portraits with a 90mm Linhof lens for the first time. The portraits I shot of my father today (at an old abandoned plant site he used to work at) were all done with the 90mm. I was unable to do close face shots (will have to use the 150mm for that) but I did like the head and shoulder and full body shots I made with the lens. I had vignetting problems with the 90mm Linhof lens, check out the scans below :

I am not sure I like the sharpness or the tiny image circle of this lens, to bad! I might have to can this 90mm portrait stuff until I can afford another sharper 90mm with a larger image circle. I will probably work with the 75mm this week to see if that might be my secondary lens this trip. The 75 would probably be to wide for portraits but it might work with some cramped interior shots or shots where I want a wide angle distorted view of things. 5 out of the  6 Grafmatic backs seem OK for light leaks, I will retest number 6. I am happy I will be able to use the Grafmatic backs this trip, it will save space and be much lighter to carry. I can do 4 Grafmatic backs a day which will hold 24 sheets of film, if I take 250 sheets with me that will give me about 10 days of shooting 4x5 film this trip.

More Photos From The Opening

One of the members from the Shutter-Bug meetup group took some photos at the opening, here they are. Thanks very much Ayman for the work you did, you saved me as I did not have time to take many still images.

All photos below done by Ayman Kallousa:


Monday, April 15, 2013

The Count Stands At 74 For Tomorrow's Opening Reception

The yes I am coming headcount for the show stands at 74, I expect 10-25 not to show up but still a number like 74 is an encouraging one. I hope the people who come to the show enjoy the pictures and I hope it gets them thinking in new ways, a final hope is that some money is donated to the Mercy Centre in Bangkok.

Great Compassion

Looking through all the great photographer books this week (today Phillip Jones Griffiths, Sebastiao Salgado and a Magnum book), one thing thing comes out over and over again in the pictures, a great great compassion for the subject. Guys like Griffiths, McCullin, Smith, Koudelka and Salgado were (are) not only great technical people that produced outstanding work, they also had (have) a deep seated understanding and feeling for their subjects. The only way you risk your life and invest that much time and effort into something is if you think its worth dying over. These men all were able to translate that deep emotion and commitment into compassionate understanding photographs that shouted out the message they were sending.

I need to understand the people I photograph better, I need to get deeper into their lives, I need to make a deeper commitment than I am making now. Will be in Thai soon, time to get started!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

To Much Film?

I have been thinking about the amount of film I am taking with me this trip, 75 rolls of 35mm and 250 sheets of 4x5, that's a lot of film for a little less than 3 weeks of shooting time. Having that much film makes me tend to overshoot stuff, its almost like an obligation to finish it all up.

Thinking about it some more thou I would rather have to much film then not enough, if I have extra I can always just bring it back to Canada and shoot it here (to avoid more X-rays, I go through 5 machines to Thailand and back to Canada).

I guess I will keep the whole bundle of film I was planning on taking, I do need to shoot more carefully thou, I need to be more selective when I press the shutter, especially with the 35mm. Gosh I wonder how much film I would run through if I used a motor-drive and had auto focus, the M6 slows me down some what.

Firstpost.com "The Train Is Coming" Show Link

I am not exactly sure what this is all about (Indian news site?) but any advertising for the show, for the photographs, is a good thing.


Another Dump Video From Youtube

Found this Mae Sot garbage dump video last night on youtube, its from Burmese language TV news.

Its strange to know that I will be there soon with these people, sharing a bit of their lives. I will be there with them standing in the garbage but for me it will be different, I will know that I can fly home to Canada at anytime, go have great restaurant meal or a nice hot shower, they do not have those options. How do people go on day after day, when you your only future, your best option in life is digging in garbage?

The one part of the video that really struck me was when one of the workers a young man almost climbs up into the garbage truck to get a first chance at it, you can just feel his desperation. What is it like to live in that world? I have to try to understand that, then communicate it in the photographs. I also want to show the dignity of these people, the beauty inside them.


and another video I just found:


The Beauty Of 35mm Tri-x

I have really come to love the beauty of 35mm Tri-x negs, for a few years I lost my way and forgot about the power of this format and film but now I am back on the right track. Modern digi cameras have a a great tonal range, sharpness and clarity to their images but there is something really special to a 35mm Tri-x film neg made with a high quality lens like on a Leica rangefinder body. The grain and tonality is very unique and can be very effective in making the image sing the song you want it to. The defined edge of the grain even thou parts or all of the shot might be out of focus gives a feeling of imagined sharpness to it, sort of the illusion of some sharpness. The grain, tonality, contrast of the prints can also create a feeling of place like no other, it can make (change) the world you shot in. Photographs made with this film and format size  can communicate in a unique and powerful individual way.

This week at work I am studying all my 35mm b/w photographer books, Eugene Richards, Sebastiao Salgado, Joseph Koudelka etc. I hope to be able to make some strong work next month using the wonderful Leica rangefinders along with Tri-x. I am very excited about the possibilities to tell important stories.

I want to try printing 20x24 photographs from 35mm negs on my return from Asia, I did one print that size a few years ago for a collector but it is not the norm for me. I think the power of the grain and the large size print could be very strong, I will be printing more 20x24 photographs from Tri-x 35 in the future.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Photo Subjects In Mae Sot

With my departure to Thailand getting closer and closer I have been thinking more on exactly where i will make photos this trip. I want to go first to the dump site to see if I can photograph there, I want to meet the families and make pictures of the family units and individuals.

I also want to try to visit and possibly make photographs in a few other Mae Sot places, I found 2 orphanages last night that I would love to visit, maybe donate some money, volunteer a bit and make pictures.

There are also several refugee camps not to far from Mae Sot, access to these places is restricted. You need a pass to enter the camps so I am not sure if I can gain access to make pictures.

I will have to see whats what when I get there, I will be going in mostly blind, with some knowledge but 100% on my own, I will just have to see what I can do with my 3 weeks. If the 3 weeks goes well, if I make friends, photographs etc I will probably go back two more times this year for additional 3 week trips each time. If things do not pan out if I have trouble making photos in Mae Sot I will probably try some place in Cambodia next trip.

The camps, the dump and the orphanages all hold poignant human stories, I hope I gain access and tell them, will see how it goes!

One of the places I will try to visit, Heavenly Home Orphanage:


This is another possible place to donate to and volunteer and photograph at, BHSOH School/Orphanage:


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Final Kit Selection?

As I get closer and closer to leaving for Thailand, I keep trying to minimize my camera kit. Here is the latest, this might be the final version for all film camera gear. I am down to 3 lens for my 2 Leica bodies and 2 lenses for the Linhof 4x5. I like this kit, its simple fairly lightweight and direct. Photography comes from seeing and feeling, you do not need tons of gear, your eyes and heart will do just fine.

Linhof 4x5
90mm Linhof Lens
150mm Nikon Lens
Pentax Spot Meter
Larger Carbon Fiber Tripod (the one I used on previous trips, I am worried the smaller tripod might not be stable enough)
4 or 5 Grafmatic Backs
Film Changing Tent

Leica M6
Leica M6TTL (.58 rangefinder allows me to compose the 21mm without using an external viewfinder)
21mm F2.8 (my new favorite lens?)
50mm F1.4 (old version lens)
28mm F2 (if its repaired) or 28mm F 2.8 Minolta M-Rokkar (a cheaper slower version 28mm I will use if the F2 is not repaired in time.)

75 rolls of Tri-x 35mm
250 sheets of 4x5 Tri-x
Extra Batteries

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shot In The Dark Email Invitation And A Classy Reply

I have been inviting lots of people to the show, long shots and the like, people who probably would not come but still why not try! This show is giving me the chance to get together with some amazingly creative people, so why not go for it!

I sent out a shot in the dark email invitation (I had to guess the email address) to Ann Thomas the Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Canada and she replied with class. Here is her email reply to my invitation and comments on the Don McCullin show, a classy move by a classy lady.

Dear Gerry Yaum,

Many thanks for your email and for sending us information about your exhibition. Unfortunately, my travels do not take me to Edmonton or nearby in the next while. I am copying my colleagues who travel out west a bit more frequently than I in the event that they should find themselves there when your exhibition is still on.
I am pleased that you were able to see the Don McCullin exhibition and that you are enjoying the National Gallery’s podcasts.

Best wishes,
Ann Thomas
Photographs Collection/ collection des photographies
National Gallery of Canada/ Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Here is a link to the podcasts that are mentioned in the email, they are well worth a listen.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Stand Development Test #2

This is my second and probably last Stand development test. This time round I did 1:150 Rodinal for 2 hours at 20C with the same agitation as earlier (first minute invert, then 3 sets of 15 second swirls every 30 minutes).

I am quite happy with the way this Tri-x shot at 800ASA looks. I think I have found a use for all the Rodinal I bought years ago and I also gained 2 stops of light when I am shooting in Asia this trip!! Happy happy happy!

I think next time I go to shoot Muay Thai boxing I will concentrate more on the crowds and less on the fighters, that's were the shots are! Muay Thai is filled with gesturing crowds because of the emotion of the spectators and the heavy betting that goes on through hand signals. Here is a sample shot of today's test film:

I might still try Rodinal stand development at 2 hours, 1:200, 20C so see if that reduces the contrast just a tad more.

Bangkok Thailand Toot Yung Gallery Show, A Go Again!

Got an email today from my friend Mimi who runs the Toot Yung Gallery in Bangkok, it looks like my show there is back on track and might happen in the next year or so. Toot Yung is opening in a brand new beautiful larger gallery in June complete with a artist's residence. Mimi told me she would love to show my work the white background sex worker shots probably the ladyboy images, in her new space.

I am happy she is back on track in a brand new bigger and better gallery and I am also happy she is still interested in showing the work. I will meet up with her this coming trip for a talk and see how it goes from there.



If everything goes to plan (and with a bit of luck) I should be able to use my blue shipping case twice, once for Toot Yung in Bangkok and once for PhotoNOLA in New Orleans (this year or maybe next). The $100 bill to buy that used plastic shipping case seems like a better deal now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I feel a real confidence in my work right now, I know pretty well exactly what my 35mm and 4x5 technique will accomplish. For years I jumped about like a drunken jack rabbit from one camera to another, from one film and developer to another. Now that I have focused and simplified my tools, it has given me a better understanding of what the final print will look like. I have worked harder in a  more specific  way and now the benefits are coming forth. I now know pretty well exactly what to expect, I can pre-visualize much better than before. When I am making the picture I can see the print better in my mind, things are coming together. I am really looking forward to the photos that will be made this coming year. I have a long way to go but I feel I am on the right path.

Ain't Photography Grand!

Today I turn 49.

Stand Development

I think this might work for me. I sometimes need to push Tri-x and I have a whole lot of Rodinal that I bought a few years back when Agfa photography went belly up. I might be able to kill 2 birds with one stone, I can use up all my bottles of Rodinal and I can push Tri-x when needed. This should open doors to  new low light picture making opportunitie, especially where in Asia where I shoot lots of 35mm in low light.

I used stand development for the first time on these scanned negs, they turned out better than pushing with D-76.

Stand development with Rodinal 1:100, 5ml of Rodinal to 500ml of water. Agitation was as follows, I gently inverted the tank for 1 minute, then let it sit (stand) for 2 hours with only 15 seconds of agitation (swirls like wine in a glass) every 30 minutes (3 times, at 30 minutes, 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes), everything was done at 20C. Stop and fix as normal and wallah, lower contrast, more detail, a  more printable neg. This development brought down the contrast and there seems to be more sharpness and shadow detail, tonight I will try a 1:200 dilution.

The film was Tri-x exposed not at my normal 200 ASA but at 800 ASA. I would probably not go higher than 1600 ASA but might try that soon to see what kind of results I can get.

Thank you P. Lynn Miller!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

More 21mm Shots To Come!

I plan on using the 21mm lens more and more this coming trip.  I have fallen in love with the slight distortion and wonky tight compositions you can make with this lens. I am not sure if it will be the Nikon or Leica version but I will shoot lots of portraits with the 21 this trip. I am leaning toward the Leica 21mm combo, I have fallen in love with that lens and the Leica is so much less intrusive (small and quiet versus big and noisy).

Pushed Boxing Pics

These negs were shot at 800ASA, I usually shoot Tri-x at 200, so I pushed the film 2 stops. The pushing process raises contrast and grain and leaves limited shadow detail. This film was processed for 15 minutes at 20C with D-76 mixed 2/1. I want to experiment a  it more with my development to try to make better negs, possibly Rodinal developer, possibly stand development or Rodinal-stand together. I have to improve on what I got this time round, shadow detail is lost because of underexposure but I should be able to reduce the grain and contrast using stand development. Rodinal would add grain but also a might help with acutance.

Latest Refined Kit

The latest Thai kit:

- Linhof 4x5
- 90mm Linhof lens
- 150mm Nikon Lens
- Spot Meter
- Smaller Chinese Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Manfrotto Head
- 5 or 6 Grafmatic Film Backs

- Leica M6
- Leica 50mm F1.4 Lens
- Leica 21mm F2.7 Lens

- Leica M6P or Nikon F5
- Leica 28mm F2 Lens (if repaired on time) or 20-35mm F2.8 Nikon Lens or My 28mm F2.8 Minolta  M- Rokkar Lens which fits on the Leica but is slower and maybe not as sharp at the F2
- Leica Portable Flash or Nikon Portable Flash

That's about it! The smallest bag of gear yet. I want to simplify my shooting as much as possible, less gear, less toys, will force me to concentrate on my imagery. I do need a few backups in case things are damaged or break down but for the most part I am simplifying to the max. If I find I need more I will add to this simple kit for the next trip. I hope my Leica 28mm lens is repaired in time, I have sent out 3 unanswered emails, I will phone next week if I do not hear back from  the Kindermann repair shop, they promised me a 6-7 week repair, we are closing in on the 6 week number now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Show Attendance Headcount at 53 People

Well I have 53 people confirmed (+2 probables) coming to the show opening reception, 63 if I count all the shutterbug meet up group people (I have been told only 50-60% show for these types of meet ups so only counted them as 15 not 25). I still have a few people who have not answered my invitation but it looks like 45 or should show up regardless of last minute cancellations which is great, better than I expected.

A Love For Life, Goodbye Roger Ebert

Been reading about Rogers life today, what an amazing man. I loved his passion for film and for living, his creativity even to his last days. The man riddled with cancer, with no jaw, a man who could not eat food did 300 reviews last year. The guy did it to the end even thou he must have suffered from his various illnesses, he did not stop writing his  reviews, books and blogs, he created till his last breath.

I hope I can live a life like that, creating and working at what I love till I die and then leaving something behind, something of consequence that matters.

Roger Ebert you lived A WONDERFUL LIFE.