Loy Krathong 2017 Yee Peng Lantern Festival Chiang Mai

I finally got around to editing a video taken this year at the Loy Kratong Yee Peng celebrations. My wife and I let off our own lantern wishing for good things ahead, as is the tradition.

We found a spot in the heart of the action for this video, which shows a non stop stream of lanterns being launched into the night sky. We were Along the Ping River next to a bridge. The sound isn't ideal (birds don't make noise like this at night), but it is 5:1 surround sound and relaxing, or you can mute it.

This is a very simple video, just something to gaze at when you need something to help you sleep at night. I guess counting the lanterns might be like the old remedy of counting sheep. I will get around to adding some photos from 2017's Yee Peng in Chiang Mai when I can.

Cat Cafe Video in Chiang Mai

These beautiful cats and kittens were recently filmed inside the Old City of Chiang Mai at Cat Brothers Cat Cafe. It is located in the north east corner on the northern part of the inner ring road.

Street Photography near Tha Pae Gate - Tourist Landmark in Chiang Mai

Kids and Pigeons enjoying the always buzzing Tha Pae Gate.

This spot outside McDonalds looking towards Tha Pae Gate is a great for spotting passing local characters. Cross the road and walk towards the gate to find many people having their photo taken at this Chiang Mai landmark. You may also feed the hundreds of pigeons. 

Tourists enjoying having their photo taken just outside Tha Pae Gate. I think the mother was "weighing me up" for her daughter who seemed interested. 😉

A market vendor at the Sunday Night Market which starts at Thapae Gate, selling handicrafts made from strong leaves, maybe from the bamboo tree?

A proud looking market stall owner not far from Thapae Gate. Every Sunday night it turns into an enormous market with many superb things to buy. We bought many Christmas presents there this year and shipped them back to the UK.

Mae Sa Waterfalls in Mae Rim just north of Chiang Mai

This video is of one of the 10 or so waterfalls at the site called Mae Sa in Mae Rim. Mae Sa falls are about 30 minutes away from Chiang Mai. It is an easy route which you can go via a scooter or Songthaew. There are various other attractions in Mae Rim, so best to make a day of it with the 2 ends of the spectrum being a butterfly garden and a shooting range.

Mae Sa waterfalls are not the best falls in the world but there are plenty of them. Go early to avoid the heat and there will also be less tourists earlier. It is a decent walk in the heat to reach the last one. You can hire a picnic mat and buy cooked food when you arrive. Don't forget drinking water and your swimwear to cool off in one of the pools of water.

This is Aiyah's debut video for Uscenes:

Best Cameras For Street Photography

My Best Cameras for Street Photography

The Ricoh GR is the best camera for street photography in my opinion, bear in mind I haven't the funds to try one of the classic Leicas yet (although I have just bought an old rangefinder film Canonet QL17 and will blog about it soon). The Ricoh GR has beautiful colors, a large APSC sized sensor, plus it is a pocketable camera. It is like a thicker phone and all black, so people don't notice you taking photos as much.

The fixed focal length of 28mm is nice and wide, plus it has a useful 35mm crop mode when you want tighter framing. The 35mm crop mode uses approximately the same sensor size as a Micro Four Thirds sensor i.e. respectably large still. It is easy to use, with some features aimed at us street photographers like the snap focus.

The Ricoh GR is great for street photography as is truly a one handed camera too, with all functions available for your thumb. I regularly change exposure compensation, focusing mode, color profile (Vivid, Positive Film and High Contrast B&W are my favorites) and other things one handed. this makes it very easy to take those candid shots and i often take ones from the side of my hip or my chest height one handed.

My 2nd favorite street camera is the Panasonic G7 because of the awesome ergonomics and very compact and lightweight body. It is like a mini DSLR. Therefore, I can utilize the many amazing Micro Four Thirds lenses from Panasonic, Sigma, Olympus, plus practically any other lens with a cheap adaptor. When cycling I use the image stabilized 12-32mm lens which is super small and lightweight.

The one thing that the Ricoh GR lacks is a viewfinder. I have been toying with buying one, but then it wouldn't be so pocketable. therefore, I usually get the itch to take my Panasonic G7 out, especially if using a manual lens or a fast lens at night. I just bought an old film camera which has the rangefinder focusing system. This was to slow me down and make me spend more time taking carefully composed photographs, instead of always coming home with hundreds. I will be getting my first rolls of film printed and scanned fairly soon. It won't be a contender for best street photography camera, but it looks awesome and is definitely worth having if you are into the hobby.

There are plenty of other cameras worth considering from Panasonic and Olympus, some much smaller. The Olympus Pen F is beautiful, The Panasonic GX7 has a rangefinder style (without rangefinder focusing), which many street photographers prefer; allowing one eye to clearly see outside of the frame. But I love the DSLR style with the fully articulating screen and full feature set. I just can't get a good grip on my wife's heavier Panasonic GX85, despite it being smaller than the G7. Plus the viewfinder doesn't have the same size or cushioning.

I love both the G7 and GR and will continue to use both. Yesterday for example, I took both out to meet a visiting friend and do a little street photography whilst walking around. The G7 with the amazing Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens was in my hands 90% of the day as I was taking portrait shots of my friend's daughter. This gave me much more control of the depth of field i.e. blurry backgrounds, which can transform a photograph from ordinary to professional and arty looking. Plus this lens has amazingly sharp rendering, which can make images which "shine".

On the other hand I used the G7 in a mall and got rather close to a woman and she wasn't comfortable. If I had been using the Ricoh GR, she may not have even noticed. The GR is suitable for ultra fast action, like plucking it out from my pocket for a quick spur of the moment photo when the little girl did something cute, or a selfie. The GR is so easy to use and convenient that it has to be the best street camera. The G7 (and it's follow up the G85) are better all around photography tools. Plus they do exceptional 4K video which is what got me started in the first place with Uscenes- I was doing that since 2013 and only just got into street photography in late spring 2017.


A deeper look into the pros and cons of the 2 cameras, plus other options and accessories

Until recently I have been using the Panasonic G7, which is a great camera for street photography because of it's weight, size and image quality. Plus I get to change lenses from the massive selection of Micro Four Thirds (M43) lenses by Panasonic, Olympus and Sigma.

Practically all other lenses can be adapted to M43 cameras with a cheap adaptor or focal reducer. I generally stick with a Panasonic kit lens; the 12-32mm f3.5-5.6, which is very light and compact, plus great image quality for the price. It has fast focusing and is stabilized. You can often find grey imports very cheap on eBay, or it shouldn't be too much on Amazon. At night I use a prime lens like the Sigma 30mm F1.4 for the extra light, this is the best bank for your buck M43 lens and an essential purchase.

Note: you need to double the focal length for Micro Four Thirds lenses to get the full frame equivalent. For APSC sensors you usually times it by 1.5. So the 30mm Sigma is a 60mm equivalent, quite tight for the street. The Ricoh below is 28mm, a touch wide for my liking.

Panasonic's G7 makes a great street camera. I painted in the Lumix and G for stealthier shooting. 

The Panasonic G7 is a Good Street Photography Camera

The G7 has a fully articulating screen, which is invaluable for my video work, but for street shooting a tilting screen would be best. I used to have that with the Sony RX100 II, which was a pocket camera with exceptional abilities and a respectably sized 1 inch sensor.

The Sony, like most Sony's it seems, didn't have good ergonomics, with a slippery black metal finish. It wasn't a fun camera to use, but it was so small that I always had it with me. This was great for learning the ropes with the camera and experimenting with photography. Then I upgraded to the Panasonic GH4 which is a bit too big for the street.

Then I upgraded to the G7, which actually saved me money because it had a few video features I didn't need missing. The colors of the G7 are much improved over the previous Panasonic lines, which had poor red and green rendering. As soon as I got hooked on street photography I colored the Lumix branding in on the G7 with a black marker- that is how happy with this camera I am; i.e. it will be hard to sell now that it has been tampered with.

The G7 has an EVF, fully articulating screen and superb ergonomics. It is a camera light enough to walk around with all day, with a pancake lens.

The Panasonic G7 has amazing ergonomics. It just fits in my hand perfectly. It has all the dials and buttons you could want, plus an electronic view finder (EVF). The old school street photographers may tell you that an optical view finder is essential and I must admit it is excellent for helping one frame the perfect shot. The old Leicas and other film cameras for the street have the viewfinder at the top left corner. Take a look at the Panasonic GX7 or a Fuji camera if you prefer this rangefinder style.

The G7 is shaped like a mini Canon or Nikon DSLR. It is certainly nowhere near pocketable. I wear a sling over a shoulder for easy access when cycling, or a belt holster when walking, which again provides super easy access. Compared to my new Ricoh GR street camera, it doesn't feel quite so small:

The mirrorless G7 has all the benefits of a Canon or Nikon DSLR, but it isn't pocketable. Introducing the far slimmer Ricoh GR street camera.

Why the Ricoh GR is the Best Camera for Street Photography

Recently I bought a used Ricoh GR  and it is a completely different kettle of fish. This is a truly pocketable camera and it has a bigger sensor (APSC) compared to the Panasonic G7 (M43/MFT). Besides expensive Leica cameras and Fujifilm rangefinders, the Ricoh GR is probably the best street photography camera in the world. The Ricoh GR is difficult to find in Thailand. I have only ever seen one available in Chiang Mai and I snapped it up and had it in my hands within 45 minutes of seeing the ad on Kaidee (Thai version of Gumtree).

Another photo illustrating just how small the Ricoh GR is. It is actually not as long as my iPhone SE. It is a camera you can have with you at all times.

For most people the updated Ricoh GR II bought new is the only option and it has some slight improvements, such as WiFi for transferring images to your other devices. The Panasonic G7 is a similar price, although Panasonic have great deals on their cameras and lenses at this time of the year. The G7 and it's follow up; the G85 are both on sale at the moment.

The Ricoh GR is a large sensor pocket camera which can be used one handed. It is stealthy and people are less likely to know you are photographing them.

The G85 lacks an Anti aliasing filter, like the Ricoh GR, which results in slightly sharper photos at the expense of some moire (patterns on checked shirts, roofs and various other objects with repeated patterns). The G85 is better for those thinking of buying the G7 if you don't mind shooting in the rain as it is weatherproof. It is also often worth the extra expense for the in-body stabilization. Personally, I am happy with the G7, I use a fast shutter speed when not using a stabilized lens and I don't do rain. The G85 is also bigger and heavier. The GR works much better as a dedicated street photography camera...

The GR has a very useful "snap" focusing mode, which means you can set it and forget it. The Vivid photo profile is great as is the High Contrast Black and White effect. I was starting to doubt the colors from Panasonic cameras, especially after seeing what the top Fuji cameras can do. Thankfully the Ricoh GR has amazing vivid colors. Reds, oranges, yellows and pinks have a real "pop" and brightness, which doesn't look over saturated. You will be seeing a lot of these colors from now on in this blog. I was first entranced by these brighter colors when I saw Gerald Gay's galleries, where he mainly uses Fuji cameras and occasionally Canon.

The Ricoh has a fixed lens which is 28mm full frame equivalent. There is a 35mm crop mode, which is my personal preference, but this may change as it only uses a part of the sensor; a similar size to the M43 sensor. There is also a 47mm crop which noticeably lowers the quality, but might be useful occasionally if you know you will need to crop when editing.

The Ricoh GR is a one-handed pocket camera with lots of customizable options. It is extremely easy to use after a little practice.

A Pocket Camera for Street Photography with a Zoom Lens

If you want a pocket camera with a zoom lens I recommend the Sony RX100 II as it is now great value as there have been a few newer versions since. It is a superb camera, but I highly recommend you get an extra hand grip like the one I put on my phone below. That could make all the difference for the Sony to make it a comfortable street camera. For me it was too slippery, but I never thought to add the hand grip before I sold it.

It has a flip up and down screen which is a big help for when you want to shoot from the hip, or shoot over a crowd. The GR's screen doesn't move. I previously had a Canon 600D (T3i) which has an APSC sized sensor. The Sony RX100 II with it's 1 inch sensor was just as good as the Canon with it's kit lens. The Canon was just a bit more cinematic for video. It is possibly due to the excellent lens on the Sony with the prestigious Carl Zeiss name.

There is one pocket camera which is smaller than the RX100 (the first version is the smallest but it doesn't have a flip screen), which is the Canon G9x. I tried one in a shop and the autofocus was crazily slow. They have brought out a new version which is faster, but the first was so slow compared to my G7 that I expect it will probably still not cut it. Try before you buy if you like the look and size of the Canon G9x II. I would definitely avoid the first one.

Before I found the Ricoh GR I decided to fashion a pocket street camera out of an iPhone...

The iPhone SE is actually great for Street Photography

I have been using my iPhone for street photography when I don't have anything else with me. It has a similar focal length to the Ricoh GR. It also makes a good back up camera if my main one runs out of battery. I think the iPhone SE is the perfect camera phone to use because of the size. It is easy to grip when you add some rubber grip tape, like I have done in the photos below. The tape helps me when holding the phone in portrait mode and landscape mode.

Attached to both sides of the phone is a thin strip of tape a similar color to the phone which give it a very good grip for steady street photos.

My iPhone also has a camera grip which I purchased offline. I use the Flipbac FBG1 Camera Grip
which was very cheap and works perfectly. It is made from hard rubber, making it grip well, but not so much that it catches on the sides of my pocket. It is very slim so I don't notice it in my pocket compared to with no camera grip on the iPhone. Newer iPhones have proper camera grip options with a shutter button on Amazon. I just use the volume button or the screen.

Update: I recently bought the Filmborn app for the iPhone and it offers film emulation looks. It is worth buying for a few dollars if you find the phone's photos a bit too clinical. I think that is why the whole Instagram/filter thing took off- phones have small sensors which means low dynamic range and poor low light. With a film emulator you are embracing the imperfections and not trying to get the sharpest results. The grain at night looks better and the over-sharpening in the stock camera is lessened.

The Flipbac FBG1 Camera Grip makes holding the phone sideways almost a point and shoot camera. They have different styles which will all fit.

Accessories for Street Photography Cameras

There are two items I would like to mention. My favorite is the belt holster pictured below. This is a cheap Chinese knock-off Camera Holster Belt with Quick Release Bolt. There are more expensive options like the Spider Black Widow, but for a lightweight camera like the G7 or GR, the cheaper option is fine. You screw the bolt into the camera's tripod thread hole. Then tighten it up with the included Allen key to prevent any risk of it coming loose. Then the buckle is worn on your belt and the camera just clips in. To get it out you pull on a lever at the side. It is awesome if you don't like to take a bag like me.

These quick draw belt holsters are great value and very convenient for street photographers.

The second accessory is what I use when cycling. Chiang Mai is a flat city so I cycle most places. It allows me to take photos I would otherwise miss. I capture scenes inside open door shops, metal works and much more. People often live above their shop and have an open space downstairs, making more opportunities to get unique snap shots as I cycle past.

Shoulder sling strap for easy access to your camera at all times.
The shoulder sling strap makes the camera rest at my side and it doesn't move much due to gravity. I am linking to a slightly different version as the one in the photo has a plate which is unnecessarily large. This is one of the cheaper versions, you can get premium ones from the likes of Peak Design. As soon as I bought the Ricoh GR I realised the plate was too big as it stuck out at the bottom of the camera, so I ordered one of the small round plates instead, which should also be better for the G7 as it will allow access to the battery and SD card slot.

Disclaimer: I am no authority when it comes to cameras. I can count on two hands the number of cameras I have owned. Therefore this post is just my opinion based on my experiences. For more insight check out the guy who seems to buy more cameras than anyone Mattias Burling on Youtube (you may recognize him as the guy with the little black dog). Others worth looking up on Youtube are Bigheadtaco and Eric Kim. Plus there are loads of documentaries and other videos with famous photographers and enthusiasts showing you good film cameras and types of film to try (next on my list).

Check prices on Amazon.com for items mentioned:

Ricoh GR II 
Panasonic G7 
Sony RX100 II
Flipbac FBG1 Camera Grip
Camera Holster Belt with Quick Release Bolt
Shoulder Sling Strap

Young Monks in the center of Chiang Mai's Old City at Phra Singh Temple

The monk on the right has an interesting look on his face, a knowing look perhaps? Whilst his fellow monk has a more serene vibe. 
Phra Singh Temple is one of the most visited temples in Chiang Mai. The grounds are beautiful. This day was a special celebration, of which there are many in Thailand. There are monks walking around all over Chiang Mai, thanks to the hundreds of beautiful temples.

Buddhism is one of the reasons why Thai people are loved by so many foreigners. The rich culture of Buddhists is very prevalent in the city. Visiting Chiang Mai just for the temples is worth it. A favorite of mine is Wat Lok Moli, just outside the north west of the old city, which is an old temple complex and close to where I have stayed.

Yesterday it was the Chiang Mai Saturday Night Market and I visited Wat Sri Suphan for the first time. It is possibly the most spectacular of the Buddhist temples I have visited. I have a backlog of photos to get through (I took over 300 last night alone), but I will certainly have some photos of these temples and people at them soon.

Although I have a large backlog of photos to get through, I shall post ones from the Loy Krathong and Yee Peng festivals just after they take place between the 2nd to 5th November. This time we shall be visiting the river Ping to see the floating lanterns in the water, plus the larger flying lanterns in the sky. It promises to be a spectacular event, with 4 days of cultural and religious celebrations including traditional dancing and other entertainment.

For now let's have a look at the beautiful interior of the temple at Wat Phan Tao, where I hope to capture the sight of monks spread out with candles beside water and letting off lanterns on the 2nd or 3rd of November.

Wat Phan Tao in the Old City. Home to this beautiful old temple and very special outdoor ceremonies with monks besides water. 

Chiang Mai Market Photo

There are lots of colorful markets in Chiang Mai. Perfect places for street photography with a wide lens. All are covered making them good spots in the rainy season 😉

The most popular stall in Thanin market. I love the pak choi with garlic and pork, one portion on its own with no rice. Alternatively, if you are in the mood for carbs, you can buy a mini rice for just 3 Baht at the next stall down.
I have made a photo album on the Facebook page click here to view many market photos in Chiang Mai.

Blind Musicians at Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai

A blind band who play at the Sunday night market which starts at Thapae Gate, the heartbeat of Chiang Mai tourism.

A line of Tuk Tuks

These iconic Thai taxis are possibly dying off with the rise of Uber and Grab. Persoanlly I hope they can integrate the tuk tuks into the service as they are usually colorful. These ones were shot in the rain in Udon Thani, on the way back to Chiang Mai from a visa run to Laos.
Tuk tuk styles vary across the country with these being from the north east of Thailand.

Here is a typical Chiang Mai style tuk tuk with a driver taking a break. I am unsure if he is doing the "OK" sign or looking through the hole in his fingers as he saw me photographing him. He was certainly chilling out in the shade, which was fair enough on a boiling hot June day in Chiang Mai.

Loy Krathong Lanna Festival Yi Peng Lanterns Chiang Mai

At the full moon every 12th Thai month, you can witness amazing scenes such as these lanterns floating into the sky. Literally, thousands of lanterns are let off across the city. Many around Buddhist temples with monks participating in ceremonies to celebrate Loy Krathong.

An old photo so excuse the quality, but I just had to share this amazing sight from the Yee Peng event at festival time. Breathtaking!
This year (2017) this event may not be happening although it is always very hush hush. There is a tourist event which is similar to the south of Chiang Mai. Once is enough however, as the crowds are unbelievable and it is very easy to lose your companions.

This year the festivals take place between the 2nd and 5th of November. The place to be should be along the River Ping for candles in the water and lanterns being let off into the air. It is a thrilling sight and the concept behind the letting off of the lanterns and water candles is well worth reading about.

Basically, the floating water candles are your worries flowing away and you can make a wish for a better future for others and yourself. The lanterns are for making "merit" and it is best that you read up on this subject to understand it better: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_Krathong .

I highly recommend learning about the Thai religious traditions which make far more sense to me, compared to the medieval and ancient religions of other parts of the world. Buddhism is less of a religion and more of a philosophy; a logical way to lead a better life through compassion and understanding the truths of life.

The elderly are respected and rightly so for being wiser. Whereas in the west we tend to have a more arrogant outlook as youths, leading to more mistakes and lack of progress mentally. Buddhism is a religion which can work in harmony with science, unlike most others who contradict it.

The events take place when there is a full moon. There will be street processions and beauty contests, plus dancing and many more traditional activities to celebrate. But more importantly, the festival is about celebrating the beauty of Thai Buddhist culture and learning how to improve yours and others lives by letting negativity go and positivity in. I shall be sure to post many photographs in early November and fingers crossed I will be able to capture a relaxing video or two for Uscenes too.

Lovely Young Lady Posing with the Pigeons at Tha Phae Gate

I experimented with a vintage filter in my photo editing software, there is a normal version below. Tha Phae Gate (often called Thapae Gate) is always a hub of activity in Chiang Mai. It is a gate into the old city with scenic views of the moat and hundreds of pigeons to pose with.

I am used to editing photos manually so here is my edit. I like both. Do you have a preference?

Old Guy on a Scooter in Santitham, Chiang Mai

I love eccentric characters and this guy is certainly playing the part dressed all in blue on his vintage blue scooter. Santitham is an area with some used electronics shops, most of which have some cameras and lenses. The top one is a dedicated used camera shop called NN Camera on Santitham Road, opposite Tesco Lotus. Which is approximately where I was stood when I shot this photograph.

Man and lady at a small market in Chiang Mai Old City

This photo was taken at the little market in the north east corner of the Old City. There seems to be a community of elderly people. I love seeing people smile like this, especially if it as at me. The lady has a nice contented look on her face too. Classic Chiang Mai characters 😊

Mature ladies sat outside their shop in the Old City of Chiang Mai

These lovely elderly ladies are in the north east corner of Chiang Mai's Old City, inside the moat. Characters like this are what makes me love street photography.

4K Lake Nature Window - at Chiang Mai University

This peaceful setting is a relaxation video for the Uscenes website. We make simple "nature windows" and "virtual aquarium" videos to use on any screen. This is the reservoir at CMU, a lovely place to chill out for a while.

Street photo from inside the moat

This interesting guy caught my eye with his bright international T-shirt and expressive face.

Photos of a happy local man with bicycle in Chiang Mai

I couldn't decide which of these looks better. What do you think? Black and white or color?

I was cycling as I took this photo, which is one of my preferred times to do street photography in Chiang Mai. Not very safe but I get shots I otherwise would have missed.

Huay Kaew Waterfall in Chiang Mai, Thailand 4K

The closest waterfall to Chiang Mai lies at the base of Doi Suthep, which is the mountain next to Chiang Mai. This peaceful spot is a nice place to relax and unwind with plenty of shady areas and rocks to sit on. Please be careful with the steep rocky area towards the waterfall, especially if it has been raining. Children should not attempt to climb that part.

Testing out my new toy, the Panasonic Leica 15mm M43 lens on workers in Chiang Mai

Just a few guys happily working together at a bike shop in Chiang Mai. I like the way the lens rendered the image.

Cowboy riding his bike with mannequins in a trailer

This cool guy caught my eye near Thapae Gate, which is the tourist hot spot in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai lady and fried food in the northeast corner of the old city

There are a few elderly locals who have food stalls in the north east corner of the city along the moat, plus a nice small market.

2 Guys in Chiang Mai Airport

Just a snapshot of two men in the airport. One looks peaceful, the other one might be mad 😃

Chiang Mai temple and 3 people on a bike

Chiang Mai temple and 3 people on a bike, which is very normal to see in Thailand with scooters being like the family car.